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The UOC will design a solution to study pedestrian mobility in Barcelona

A research project to promote mobility by walking in Barcelona (photo: Jorge Fernández /

Teresa Bau

The University is investigating how pedestrian mobility enhances social interactions and the local economy in Barcelona

Improving mobility on foot fosters social and economic interaction in cities

Going beyond the city's Superblocks programme, Barcelona plans to pacify 32 kilometres of streets by 2024, in order to encourage sustainable mobility and create new social spaces that boost local trade and social activities. A team from the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC) is leading a research study aimed at developing a solution to analyse pedestrian mobility and then design indicators to quantify the potential for social and economic interaction in different areas of the city. The research has received funding from the Department of Science and Universities of Barcelona City Council, and the "la Caixa" Foundation.

Albert Solé Ribalta, a researcher in the Complex Systems group (CoSIN3) of the Internet Interdisciplinary Institute (IN3) at the UOC and leader of the Like-BCN project, explained that "we want to design technology that gives us knowledge of pedestrian mobility data. This technology exists for studying road networks. We're going to adapt those ideas to people's mobility on foot."

The research seeks to answer two basic questions: how the walkable area influences the routes used by pedestrians, and the effect of pedestrian routes on social interaction and the economy in the city. 

The project also involves the researcher Sergi Lozano, of the Faculty of Economics and Business at the University of Barcelona, and TC Group Solutions, a retail intelligence company which will be providing data on pedestrian mobility obtained from a vast array of sensors located all over the city. In addition to analysing the flows of people (where they come from, where they go and how they get there), they will be describing the network of pavements and examining the opportunities pedestrians have on their journeys to find places for social interaction and economic activities in shops.


Towards an active carbon-free mobility

"Moving towards sustainable cities means improving various aspects of urban life," explained Albert Solé, who is also a member of the Faculty of Computer Science, Multimedia and Telecommunications. "Like-BCN is focused on the transition to an active mobility that is not based on fossil fuels (carbon-free), the socio-economic implications it could have, and how we can promote it."

According to the team of researchers, the networks of pavements and walking mobility have been subject to very little study. This means that it is necessary to determine what implications they may have for pedestrian travel, and how this is affected by an increase or reduction in pavements. Being able to use sensoring in cities in the context of smart cities makes this research easier. "The project aims to improve pedestrian mobility. The positive effects of walking on physical and mental health are well known, and it's a way of getting around that has benefits such as improving accessibility in the city, fostering social interaction, increasing social capital, reducing crime and encouraging artistic expressions and activities."

The analysis technology that emerges from the research will be applicable to other cities, according to the UOC researcher: "The methods and algorithms being developed are generic, so they can be applied to similar data in other environments. After we understand the power of the technology we're deploying, we'll be analysing how to take advantage of it in other cities, although the project itself is only focused on Barcelona."


This project is funded by the extraordinary call for grants for scientific research projects, and is the result of a collaboration agreement between the "la Caixa" Foundation and Barcelona City Council, which is part of the Barcelona Science Plan 2020-2023, which aims to consolidate the line of research grants to meet the most pressing urban challenges. 



This research supports the following Sustainable Development Goals (SDG): 8, Decent Work and Economic Growth; 11, Sustainable Cities and Communities; and 13, Climate Action.



The UOC's research and innovation (R&I) is helping overcome pressing challenges faced by global societies in the 21st century, by studying interactions between technology and human & social sciences with a specific focus on the network society, e-learning and e-health.

Over 500 researchers and 51 research groups work among the University's seven faculties and two research centres: the Internet Interdisciplinary Institute (IN3) and the eHealth Center (eHC).

The University also cultivates online learning innovations at its eLearning Innovation Center (eLinC), as well as UOC community entrepreneurship and knowledge transfer via the Hubbik platform.

The United Nations' 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and open knowledge serve as strategic pillars for the UOC's teaching, research and innovation. More information: #UOC25years

UOC experts

Albert Solé

Albert Solé Ribalta

CoSIN3 researcher and professor at the Faculty of Computer Science, Multimedia and Telecommunications

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