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Re: [carfree_cities] Auto-Free Zones

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  • Karen Sandness
    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
    Message 1 of 3 , Jul 10, 2002
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      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
      Tokyo.

      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.

      In transit,
      Karen Sandness
    • Chris Bradshaw
      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
      Message 2 of 3 , Jul 11, 2002
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        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
        fronts.)

        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
        of
        100,000 people employed, mostly by the federal government, within the
        adjacent blocks).

        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
        cars.

        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.

        Chris Bradshaw
        Ottawa
      • mountainsport500
        ... dying, ... an ... 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
        Message 3 of 3 , Jul 14, 2002
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          --- In carfree_cities@y..., Karen Sandness <ksandness1@a...> wrote:

          > 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.
          >
          > 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.


          Tim Prescott
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