Street life is the motor of society, where humans come together. To make our cities more liveable, breathable and human, city planners all over the world are closing off streets and public squares to motorised vehicles to create pedestrian zones and regain urban space for people.
The UITP Policy Brief ‘Ensuring optimum accessibility of pedestrian zones’, emphasises the importance of involving all stakeholders, especially public transport and combined mobility stakeholders, in the development of new pedestrian zones in cities. Public transport and combined mobility services play a critical role in ensuring accessibility to these pedestrian zones, and therefore need to be involved from the very beginning of the project.
Real benefits for cities, people and businesses
Pedestrian zones are usually introduced in a city to improve the quality of life for the inhabitants. They are intended to regain urban spaces for citizens, and create a safe zone for people to socialise and interact while also easily get from place to place. Furthermore, banning private cars reduces noise and air pollution, and encourages a healthier lifestyle.
Often these zones are implemented to revitalise central business districts or shopping areas, and restore the concept of community. Indeed, pedestrian zones are usually located in main areas of a city centre known for leisurely activities.
Studies in New York and France have shown that retail sale volumes increase with the installation of a pedestrian zone, and that most people go shopping in city centres by foot, bike, or using public transport. In Copenhagen, a significant increase in café culture could be seen after the pedestrianisation of one its main streets went into effect in the 1960s.
Involving key stakeholders for optimum accessibility
Without a well-designed inner and outer public transport offer and combined mobility services, a pedestrian zone will fail to meet its goals. When whole streets and squares are closed off to motorised vehicles, bus routes need to be reorganised, new access points for bike and car-sharing systems need to be installed, and parking areas need to be moved and easy to access.
In Vienna Austria, “Bognergasse-Tuchlauben” is a successfully organised pedestrian zone in the city centre. Having involved all mobility service providers from the beginning of the project, the city was able to reorganise its transport routes, car parks, and access points for bike and car-sharing schemes. Not only did this pedestrian zone achieve its goal to create a better urban realm for citizens, but public transport passenger numbers have increased considerably.
The reorganisation of public transport and combined mobility services needs to be planned carefully and efficiently in order for any pedestrian zone to successfully meet its goal of improving the quality of life in the city centre. The entire society is linked to the way mobility is structured in its centre, especially around its business districts, and therefore, the implementation of a pedestrian zone needs to be well planned.