The City Council of Los Angeles, CA has approved a pilot project for park blocks – where traffic will be rerouted in one neighborhood to reclaim blocks of some streets as public spaces free from motor vehicles. According to a report by the Los Angeles City Council Transportation Committee, park blocks can provide “substantial shade, outdoor recreation, greening, and storm water capture in communities desperate for parks.” They can also be tailored to communities’ needs, with features such as bike lanes and wider sidewalks.
The pilot project is based on a program in Barcelona, which experimented with park blocks in 2016 in a bid to reduce traffic deaths, noise, and air pollution. Barcelona’s “Superilla” – or superblock – program reconfigured traffic circulation to prevent vehicles from cutting through residential neighborhoods. It was able to reclaim up to 70% of street surface area and intersections as public space, successfully reduced noise and air pollution, and increased residents’ outdoor activities. Streets on the edges of park blocks did not see meaningful increases in traffic.
“Other parts of the world are demonstrating that big cities can be pedestrian-centric, by using portions of streets in neighborhoods for residents to make it their own and expand open space, give kids more room to play, and allow cyclists safer passage on neighborhood streets,” said Councilmember Kevin de León. “It’s time for Los Angeles to be a leader in the United States by proving big American cities built around car-centric infrastructure can transform into liveable cities.”
The program plans to focus on equity, and the next step in the project will be community meetings with residents and businesses.
“The park blocks program emphasizes a participatory approach,” de León said. “It allows residents to have a say in the design and implementation of the program in their neighborhoods.”