Tranvía de Barcelona. Attribution: Fabien1309
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Location Barcelona, Spain
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Keywords Cities
Published by Phil Green
Published 2014
License CC BY-SA 4.0

Barcelona ( BAR-sə-LOH-nə, Catalan: [bəɾsəˈlonə], Spanish: [baɾθeˈlona]) is a city on the coast of northeastern Spain. It is the capital and largest city of the autonomous community of Catalonia, as well as the second most populous municipality of Spain. With a population of 1.6 million within city limits, its urban area extends to numerous neighbouring municipalities within the Province of Barcelona and is home to around 4.8 million people, making it the fifth most populous urban area in the European Union after Paris, the Ruhr area, Madrid, and Milan. It is one of the largest metropolises on the Mediterranean Sea, located on the coast between the mouths of the rivers Llobregat and Besòs, and bounded to the west by the Serra de Collserola mountain range, the tallest peak of which is 512 metres (1,680 feet) high.

Barcelona community action[edit | edit source]

Sustainability initiatives[edit | edit source]

Community involvement[edit | edit source]

The word Decidim translated from Catalan means we decide, and it's the name of Barcelona's digital infrastructure for participatory democracy. One part functional database and one part political statement, organizers say Decidim is key to a broad digital transformation that is taking place in Barcelona — its institutions, markets, and economy. Organized by the Barcelona City Council, Barcelona's citizens participate in a new digital commons, and its organizers hope that technology can improve democratic participation and foster good government. The open-source platform allows the public to participate directly in government as they would a form of social media, and they have had early success. The city council hosted several organizing events to decide on a strategic plan, and nearly 40,000 people and 1,500 organizations contributed 10,000 suggestions.

Decidim was born when a young protest movement in Spain swept into power, according to Xabier Barandiaran, a project leader, who compares the fledgling political party to the Occupy movement in the U.S. Its leadership's first goal was to create a platform for open strategic planning for the city. "People were in the streets and saying let's participate in democracy, let's write a strategic plan," Barandiaran said.

What developed was an open-source software that embodied the group's transformation plan, a digital common where citizens can have a say in government — the code is available on Github. "We decided how we would decide," he said.[1]

Communities online[edit | edit source]

i.lab, Barcelona Digital City

Cycling activism[edit | edit source]

Bicing is a bicycle-sharing system in Barcelona which began service on March 22, 2007. It is similar to the Vélo'v service in Lyon or Vélib' in Paris, and uses the same bicycles and stations as used in Stockholm, Oslo, and Zaragoza. Its purpose is to cover small and medium daily routes within the city in a climate-friendly way, eliminating the pollution, roadway noise, and traffic congestion that motor vehicles create.

The bike-sharing system was received by residents with great enthusiasm, covering approximately 70% of the city area, including Ciutat Vella, the Eixample and some parts of Sant Martí and Gràcia. However, stations have not been placed in areas where the grade is greater than four percent, such as the hilly areas of Montjuïc and Tibidabo. Several neighboring cities have asked for the service to be extended to their cities as well, and studies are underway on how to implement this for the wider metropolitan area.

In 2019 the network started a large 7,000 bike expansion with pedal assisted bikes from Canadian firm PBSC.

Main article: Bicing

Food activism[edit | edit source]

The city of Barcelona has a great many neighborhood markets that provide meat, fish, produce, and more on a daily basis, and are still vital to the urban life of the city. Many of the city's historic markets date to the mid-to-late 19th century, as the city was experiencing rapid growth due to the creation of the Eixample. Each neighborhood has at least one market and many have up to 4. Markets in the city are typically large enclosed spaces located centrally in the neighborhoods they serve. The larger markets are arranged into departments depending on the product. In addition, there exist many non-food based markets around the city, such as those that offer art or secondhand goods. The city's oldest markets are located in the Ciutat Vella and Eixample, with newer markets along the fringes of the city. Many of the older markets, such as La Boqueria, not only provide food and goods for their surrounding neighborhoods, but are tourist attractions in their own right, as they provide an essential glimpse into everyday life in the city. The markets are administered under the Mercats Municipals de Barcelona wing of the city's government.

Open spaces[edit | edit source]

Barcelona contains sixty municipal parks, twelve of which are historic, five of which are thematic (botanical), forty-five of which are urban, and six of which are forest. They range from vest-pocket parks to large recreation areas. The urban parks alone cover 10% of the city (549.7 ha or 1,358.3 acres). The total park surface grows about 10 ha (25 acres) per year, with a proportion of 18.1 square metres (195 sq ft) of park area per inhabitant.

Sharing[edit | edit source]


Towards sustainable economies[edit | edit source]

Sharing cities movement[edit | edit source]

One of the leaders in the sharing cities movement has been Barcelona, the capital of Spain's Catalonia region, with more than 1,000 worker-owned enterprises and cooperatives in operation working in 28 different economic areas including sharing of culture, energy, agro-agriculture, and consumption. This includes the Xarxa de Consum Solidari network of consumers' cooperatives and La Borda, a housing cooperative. One neighborhood, Sants, has 50 cooperatives alone, including an architecture office, a bookshop and a music club, all owned by residents and all of which keep their profits within the community. Even the famous Barcelona FC soccer club — one of the best teams in Europe — is a cooperative sporting association with 175,000 members, all of whom have a voice in deciding the direction and future of the club.

The movement has roots going back more than 60 years in Spain, to the founding of the Mondragon Corporation, a federation of more than 100 cooperatives that employs more than 73,000 people. By one measure, Mondragon ranks among Spain's top 10 corporations.[2]

Anti-poverty programs[edit | edit source]

The city of Barcelona has launched an experiment testing several potential reforms of its anti-poverty programs, including new social programs as well as unconditional cash payments.[3]

Barcelona's B-MINCOME project

Urban sustainability[edit | edit source]

Resources[edit | edit source]

Books[edit | edit source]

Images[edit | edit source]

  • Images Barcelona, Barcelona City Council makes its current photographic collection available to the public. More than 10,218 Images of the city geolocated and in different resolutions.

Infographics[edit | edit source]

What you breathe when you breathe

Maps[edit | edit source]

Directori d'iniciatives de l'economia col·laborativa procomú a Catalunya (beta)

Other resources[edit | edit source]

Barcelona is also home to numerous social centres and illegal squats that effectively form a shadow society mainly made up of the unemployed, immigrants, dropouts, anarchists, anti-authoritarians and autonomists. Peter Gelderloos estimates that there around 200 squatted buildings and 40 social centres across the city with thousands of inhabitants, making it one of the largest squatter movements in the world. He notes that they pirate electricity, internet and water allowing them to live on less than one euro a day. He argues that these squats embrace an anarcho-communist and anti-work philosophy, often freely fixing up new houses, cleaning, patching roofs, installing windows, toilets, showers, lights and kitchens. In the wake of austerity, the squats have provided a number of social services to the surrounding residents, including bicycle repair workshops, carpentry workshops, self-defense classes, free libraries, community gardens, free meals, computer labs, language classes, theatre groups, free medical care and legal support services. The squats help elderly residents avoid eviction and organise various protests throughout Barcelona. Notable squats include Can Vies W and Can Masdeu W. Police have repeatedly tried to shut down the squatters movement with waves of evictions and raids, but the movement is still going strong. W

Research[edit | edit source]

From a fablab to a fab city
Author: IAU île-de-France, Jan 10, 2018
  • Fab Lab Barcelona, the first Fab Lab funded in the European Union in 2007 and a benchmark in the powerful network of over 1800 Fab Labs in over 100 countries.

News and comment[edit | edit source]


Two-way street: how Barcelona is democratising public space, Dec 23 [4]

Barcelona's car-free 'superblocks' could save hundreds of lives [5] Sep 10


Barcelona to open southern Europe's biggest low-emissions zone [6] Dec 31


"Barcelona isn't just a's a tide, which goes up & up & up and is unstoppable", May 6 [7]

City of Barcelona Kicks Out Microsoft in Favor of Linux and Open Source, Jan 12 [8]


Inside Fab Lab Barcelona and the IAAC: 3D printing for the people [9] Oct 5

Barcelona's Decidim Offers Open-Source Platform for Participatory Democracy Projects, Sep 5 [10]

Barcelona acts to address climate change, Jul 20 [11]

How Barcelona is reducing daily car journeys, Jul 3 [12]

Building the Networked City From the Ground Up With Citizens, Jun 27 [13]

Barcelona has always been a centre of radicalism. Now the City's €1bn spending power is being used to build a more democratic economy, Apr 10 [14]

El ayuntamiento crea Barcelona Energia para autoabastecerse de electricidad, Mar 30 [15]

From 'smart cities' to 'smart citizens': when technology meets activism, Mar 29 [16]

How Progressive Cities Can Reshape the World — And Democracy, Mar 10 [17]

Eight lessons from Barcelona en Comú on how to Take Back Control, Mar 8 [18]

Barcelona Plans Europe's Largest Car Ban Yet, Mar 7 [19]

Barcelona Crowdsourced its Sharing Economy Policies. Can Other Cities Do the Same? Jan 18 [20]


Barcelona will offer free public transport to those who get rid of their polluting car. Dec 13 [21]

Barcelona's Brave Struggle to Advance the Commons, Nov 22 [22]

Barcelona, primera ciudad "Veg-Friendly" del mundo, May 30 [23]

Superblocks to the rescue: Barcelona's plan to give streets back to residents, May 17 [24]


Food For Thought: Why Barcelona's Markets Are "Super" Places, May 30 [25]


External links[edit | edit source]

Barcelona W

References[edit | edit source]