Superblocks are having positive effects on health and well-beingBarcelona’s superblocks are having a positive effect on the health and well-being of their local residents and users. This was the conclusion of various observational, quantitative and qualitative studies conducted within the framework of the “Health on the streets” project, by the Barcelona Public Health Agency (ASPB), which analysed the impact on health and the determining factors of the superblocks implemented in Poblenou, Sant Antoni and Horta.
They are generally perceived as a gain in well-being, tranquillity, sound quality, noise reduction, pollution reduction and social interaction and mobility. These effects, according to scientific evidence, can help to prevent chronic health problems, such as cardio-vascular or respiratory diseases, diabetes, obesity, cancer, depression and anxiety. Because of all the, the ASPB concludes that these measures will have an impact on the well-being of local residents as well as great potential for a positive impact on the population’s health, should they be extensively implemented.
Results of the Sant Antoni superblock
The Sant Antoni superblock underwent a quantitative assessment of pollution levels, a qualitative study and an observational study.
The assessment was able to quantify the improved air quality, with a drop in concentrations of the atmospheric pollutants NO2 (down by 25%) and PM10 (down by 17%) since the implementation of the superblock.
The superblock was very positively rated by all the people interviewed, who gave it a score ranging between 8 and 10, and felt greater tranquillity, safety and satisfaction, rest and socialisation there. In addition, there was a fall in perceptions of noise and pollution after the number of cars there had been reduced.
Results of the Horta superblock
The Horta superblock was subject to a quantitative assessment of pollution levels, a health survey involving over eight hundred respondents and several street-intercept surveys.
As regards air quality, the NO2 and particle levels remained low overall and nothing changed with the initiative.
According to the results of the health survey, 45% of the women and 56% of the men believed that well-being had increased in the streets affected by the initiative. 60% of the women and 66% of the men thought that it was more comfortable walking there, while 68% of the women and 74% of the men appreciated the improved accessibility for prams.
As for mobility, the respondents believed that it had improved, especially in the Chapí – Feliu Codina intervention. In addition, they thought the initiative encouraged people to stay and converse along the street.
Results of the Poblenou superblock
The Poblenou superblock underwent a qualitative study, with six discussion groups.
The general assessment was that the initiative had been positive and led to a reduction in the number of motorised vehicles in the area and a consequent improvement in air quality and reduction in both environmental and noise pollution.
As regards use of space and mobility, the perception was an improvement in mobility inside the superblock thanks to the reduction in number of vehicles there, although there was concern over the possible impact on surrounding streets. People also detected, what is more, a more relaxed environment and a reduction in stress and appreciated the superblock’s contribution to making the area peaceful and easy to walk along, as well as the interaction among local residents, which was encouraging the building of relations and social networks while also benefiting people’s mental health. Some of the women considered the area abandoned and somewhat unsafe whereas others viewed the opposite, as it was an open space.
You can see the full study from the ASPB’s website.