Implementing the Urban Bubble Model in Tenerife

The superblock model aims to give cities back to the residents. This concept, created by urban ecologist Salvador Rueda, promotes a secure and sustainable urban layout where pedestrians are prioritised over private vehicles. While the Canary Islands could serve as an ideal testing ground for this model, its adoption in island territories is still in its early stages. Superblocks essentially create a bubble spanning up to 20 hectares within cities. Within this area, space is freed up to enable the community to exercise all their rights, not just the right to move around. According to Rueda in an interview with Canarias Ahora, this space is meant for children to play, people to engage in sports, celebrate, exchange ideas, culture, art, and more.

The Special Outbreak award at the Canary Islands International Environmental Film Festival (FICMEC) was conferred upon the Environmental Engineering and Energy Management diploma in Tenerife for their efforts towards promoting sustainable mobility in Spain. They are currently advising the La Laguna City Council on sustainable development and efficient utilization of resources, aiming to transform the city into a compact and diverse space that focuses on mobility, accessibility, social cohesion, and economic and commercial activities happening on its streets.

Designing cities that revolve around residents requires reducing the number of vehicles by 15%. Salvador Rueda points out that this proportion is acceptable, as it is similar to the reduction witnessed during the 2008 economic crisis without any adverse effects. While the superblock model was first implemented in Barcelona, it is gradually spreading to cities like Berlin, Brussels, Vienna, and various locations in Latin America, totalling 144 cities. However, island territories are slower in embracing this concept due to a cultural attachment to cars, which are seen as a status symbol. Rueda highlights the need to shift this mindset and view the private vehicle as a utilitarian object rather than a symbol of freedom.

The superblock model was conceived as a solution to assess cities, which are described as the most intricate system created by humankind. In the case of Barcelona, its implementation would open up 70% of urban space, transforming over 2,500 streets from roads for vehicles to pedestrian-friendly zones.

Alleviating Traffic Congestion

By limiting private vehicles in cities, it becomes possible to combat a major threat they pose: air pollution. The model aims to overturn this issue by significantly enhancing air quality within superblocks. This leads to reduced emissions, noise levels staying within acceptable limits, and a notable decrease in accidents due to the capped speed of 10 kilometers per hour within these zones.

Tenerife is already grappling with chronic traffic congestion, resulting in significant time wastage for its residents. This congestion is a major economic issue, as highlighted by Rueda. The only viable solution is to enhance public transportation for mass transit and decrease vehicle numbers on the main roads by at least 25%. Rueda emphasises the need to explore alternative solutions as continuing with the current approach of land consumption is outdated.

To address road congestion, experts propose creating a BUS-HOV lane linking northern towns of the island with La Laguna and Santa Cruz de Tenerife using appropriately-sized express buses. These rapid routes must complement other existing transit options.

Enhancing Public Transport Networks in Tenerife to Improve Mobility

Revamping Bus Services

A proposal to enhance public transport networks in Tenerife suggests the creation of three distinct bus networks. These networks aim to facilitate quicker travel for passengers, making buses a more competitive transportation option. The need for such improvements is evident due to the current overcapacity and demographic challenges on the island. By restructuring the bus services, Tenerife aims to push the boundaries of efficient mobility.

Climate Shelters to Combat Rising Temperatures

The increasing frequency and intensity of heatwaves in the Canary Islands, attributed to global warming, have necessitated the establishment of climate shelters in urban areas. While shopping centres and bars have traditionally served as refuges during extreme temperatures, urban planner Salvador Rueda advocates for a natural approach. Rueda emphasises the importance of harnessing nature’s cooling abilities, with trees being identified as crucial in reducing urban temperatures by 2 to 3 degrees. Trees not only provide shade but also cool the environment through the process of evapotranspiration.

Rueda’s proposal for La Laguna encompasses comprehensive measures to combat urban heat, with a strong focus on tree planting and creating shaded areas. He highlights the cooling effects of permeable pavements, which aid in evaporation and contribute to transforming urban spaces into climate-friendly refuges. By leveraging nature’s mechanisms intelligently, cities can mitigate the impacts of rising temperatures and create more liveable environments.

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