A good part of the more than 400,000 cars entering Barcelona every day - which surpass those entering Manhattan - correspond to people who live in metropolitan suburbs that do not always have a good public transport alternative. The exceptional density of the Catalan capital facilitates mobility on foot or by bicycle and allows it to be provided with efficient public transport but, in turn, causes it to be much more vulnerable than other cities to the effects of the private vehicle. Barcelona has 6,000 cars per square kilometer - Madrid, 3,000; Paris, 1500; London, 1,200-, which privatize more than 60% of the public space while only being used in 20% of the displacements, which cause atmospheric pollution levels much higher than the limits marked by the EU and that generate each year more than 3,500 premature deaths.
The answer to this health emergency is undoubtedly to reconquer the public space invaded by the car and deliver it to pedestrians, cyclists and users of surface public transport. This is the commitment of the City Council, which has made public its willingness to pacify a large number of streets throughout the city. But this solution poses a serious danger of gentrification.
If the city is not able to provide the pacified neighborhoods with a good proportion of public housing, some kind of protected proximity stores and other forms of grassroots economic activity, all the collective effort dedicated to reconquering public space will revert to the benefit of the real estate market or the tourism industry and will harm the neighbours and merchants with less purchasing power, who will not be able to afford the rent increase and will be expelled from the neighborhood. For those who know Barcelona, the experience of the pacification of the Born neihgbourhood, the Villa de Gràcia, the street of Enric Granados or the Portal del Ángel demonstrates this: after decades of overcrowding of the private vehicle, living in pedestrian streets has become a very desirable luxury.