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The car had not even been invented when the unknown Catalan engineer Ildefons Cerdà launched his radical plan to transform Barcelona, liberating the city from medieval density. More than 150 years later Barcelona is on the cusp of another revolution in urbanisation, converting Cerdà’s grid into a greener, pedestrian-friendly centre from which almost all cars are banned.

Barcelona’s plan draws on its four-year-old experiment with “superblocks”. These are islands of car-free space with traffic around their perimeter and from which cars are newly banished. They will be freed up for pedestrians, parks and public plazas, with thousands of trees creating new green space.

Other city mayors should look to Barcelona’s ambitious example in the battle to reclaim cities from gridlock and combat rising air pollution.

There is no better moment than the present.

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