Re: [carfree_cities] Auto-Free Zones
- When I was in Tokyo this spring, I happened upon a small street near
Suidobashi Station which the locals had organized as a car-free street. I
wonder if pedestrian fatalities had spurred this grass-roots effort, because
the street was not wide enough for both cars and pedestrians at the same
time. Still, it was not any narrower than thousands of other streets in
One of Tokyo's main shopping districts, the Ginza, is closed to auto traffic
on weekends for a distance of about ten blocks. This stretch is accessible
by three subway stations, and people do access it. Probably as a concession
to the local restaurants, there are no full-fledged food booths, but you do
see such things as stores putting their merchandise on the sidewalk, street
performers (including a band from Peru--I could swear I've seen them in
Portland), and even official shaded benches and tables set up in the middle
of the street. I'm told that part of the Shinjuku area does the same, but I
didn't go there this year.
Further evidence of the success of the pedestrian mall came when I tried to
find a place to have lunch. All the obvious places had long lines, including
the restaurants inside the department stores along the street. I finally
settled on a slightly expensive Italian restaurant with a non-obvious
entrance, where I had a complete and authentic-tasting lunch for about $13.
Closer to home, I've also been to Santa Monica's Third Street Mall. Even
though it was a drizzly day, the crowds were out, and so were the street
performers, most notably a young fellow about twelve years old who
tap-danced and played the trumpet a la Louis Armstrong. He was getting $5
and $10 bills in the hat that he passed.
Portland's Pioneer Courthouse Square was never a street, just the site of an
old hotel, but citizen activists saved it from the fate of becoming a
parking structure or a pavilion that charged admission. On normal days, the
street kids cluster at one corner and the food vendors at another, with
hacky sack players and lunchtime office workers somewhere in the middle. On
a sunny afternoon, it seems as if every worker downtown is sitting on the
brick steps, taking in some rays along with lunch. The square also hosts
ethnic festivals, political rallies, concerts, and a lot of one-time events.
The light rail trains pass on either side.
So not all pedestrian facilities fail. You probably can't save a dying,
boarded-up street by banning cars, but you can add new vitality to an
already active area by turning the pedestrians loose.
- I am wading in with a negative vote.
Ottawa has one of the oldest malls, the Sparks Street Mall, and a 1990
sprucing-up makes it still one of the most handsome. Its original
(1966) three-block length has been extended to five (all running along
the long side of the block, probably for a total of 4,000 feet).
The original blocks have mostly tightly knit mall-facing storefronts,
and the merchants are very supportive of the mall continuing, while the
two blocks added in the 1970s have few doors facing the mall (and thus
much less walking 'traffic').
The recent popularity of outdoor seating for restaurants has helped make
the mall more successful, as it has attracted more restaurants (but
their outdoor seating is right outside their door, forcing the flow of
window shoppers out into the centre of the mall, away from the building
The ban on motor traffic (except for deliveries before 10 a.m.) is not
enforced very strongly, but few drivers make use of it, mostly delivery
activities. And the restaurants all are located near to the
crossstreets, since they want (and need) heavy pedestrian traffic after
office hours (the mall is notorious for its lack of activity evenings
and weekends, with the merchants' business relying mostly on the cluster
100,000 people employed, mostly by the federal government, within the
The Santa Fe sentiment is common after a pedestrian is killed. I find a
mall may be good therapy (getting even) for the walking community, but a
street dominated by pedestrians is as unnatural as one dominated by
I would recommend a street that is balanced, with two _slow_ lanes of
traffic (one in each direction) and _wide_ sidewalks. This can be done
over the whole of downtown, so that it doesn't just shift the problems
of one street to the adjacent ones. It also will have a more
significant effect on the _expectations_ of Santa Feans toward their
downtown, how they get there, and how long they visit each time (our
Sparks Street mall is populated mostly by people there for _economic_
incentives -- their jobs, and not that many tourists, despite the
presence of Parliament Hill just around the corner; most tourists and
Ottawans spend 'serious time' a km to the east, in "The Market").
To look at all sides of this issue, consider the following resources:
1. Visit the Project for Public Spaces (pps.org) a NYC consulting
group that are famous for desiging places for pedestrian activity, and
have a list like this called "Public.Spaces."
2. Visit the Ottawa web site to make contact with the Sparks Street Mall
Authority and the merchants association (www.ottawa.ca).
3. Get a look at some books: David Engwicht's _Street Reclaiming_
(1999), Roberta Grandes Gratz's _Cities Back from the Edge: New Life for
Downtown_ (1998), Ray Oldenburg's _The Great Good Place_ (revised in
1999), and Rodney Tolley's (ed.) Green Transportation book (don't have
exact title), which has an essay on the economics of pedestrian areas,
mostly in European cities.
4. You might want some feedback from the pedestrian crowd, at pednet
(www.flora.org/pednet/), a list I co-own.
- --- In carfree_cities@y..., Karen Sandness <ksandness1@a...> wrote:
> So not all pedestrian facilities fail. You probably can't save adying,
> boarded-up street by banning cars, but you can add new vitality toan
> already active area by turning the pedestrians loose.-------------------------------------------------------------------
> In transit,
> Karen Sandness
I agree with the above. Activity must be at an already high threshold
for 100% pedestrianism to work. Santa Fe may not have a high enough
activity level in the Winter for permanent pedestrianism to work.
Closing streets in Europe is almost always done incrementally at very
low cost to test viability. Initially, streets are closed only for
those periods with greatest pedestrian activity.
Street closings in the US got a bad rep. because this incremental
testing was never done and instead money was thrown at projects which
didn't make sense.
Traffic calming may be a better solution to slow traffic and prevent
accidents in Santa Fe.
I visited Sante Fe in 2001 and was shocked at the poor condition and
design of the Plaza. The average Mexican plaza (Zocallo) is a much
more pleasant than Santa Fe's plaza. The typical Zocallo has abundunt
seating in the form of benches and seat walls, is surrounded by
sidewalk cafes, filled with street vendors, often has a stage for
outside concerts, and may include a fountain with seating. The Zocalo
is the public meeting place for the town's residents. Whereas the
average zocalo is filled with people day and night, the Sante Fe
plaza was empty on the November day I visited.
Improvement of the the Sante Fe Plaza may be a first step to start
bringing locals back to the center.