Reintroducing Cars To Pedestrian Malls

Downtown Sacramento's 'K' St. has been one of the city's most notable economic failures. Banning cars while providing the light rail an undisturbed path never fulfilled the hopes that urban planners had for the pedestrian mall. Now cars will return.

Traffic has been banned from K St. since the sixties. The City Council and Mayor Kevin Johnson have now approved returning vehicle traffic in hopes of bringing more customers to the dying street. Cyclists will have no objection as long as vehicle speed is kept low, according to Walt Seifert with Sacramento Area Bicycle Advocates.

"Michael Ault (of the Downtown Sacramento Partnership) and city officials believe more cars means more eyeballs – which K Street's shops and restaurants desperately need. They also hope cars will bring less crime. Denise Malvetti with the economic development department says Sacramento is one of many cities rethinking car-less streets."

Malvetti: "Between 1959 and 1984, about 130 US cities created these pedestrian malls to really make it feel more like a suburban mall, which was really booming at that time. And it actually had the opposite effect. It really decimated retail at a lot of these pedestrian malls."

From Sacramento Press: City staff - Cars on K good for business: "Eugene, Chicago and Louisville are some of the cities that have reversed course to add cars to their pedestrian malls, according to the April 27 staff report."

From Sacramento Press: K Street Mall ready for bicyclists (April 14, 2010): "The City Council unanimously voted on Nov. 24 to let bicyclists ride on K Street Mall. Installing the signage was the last step in the city's process of legalizing bikes on the Mall. The speed limit for bicyclists on the K Street Mall is 10 miles per hour"

Full Story: City Council Approves Cars on K Street



Car-centric myth

It is a lie that pedestrianizing streets killed businesses - and that bringing back cars will help. The thing that killed downtown businesses on pedestrian malls was the same thing that killed downtown businesses on streets that allow cars: big box retail.

In this case, the report commissioned by the local business association and adapted without question by the city, itself noted that J St, which allows cars, has suffered a similar or more pronounced retail decline as K St. The report does not support its assertion that auto traffic will improve the retail climate. Finally, the report displays a consistent pro-car bias, treating pedestrianized K St as an "interruption to the street grid," as though the only real street is a street with cars. See the report here:

Returning cars to K St will not help the retail and it will significantly diminish the pedestrian environment. The message is clear - USA: Drive it or leave it.

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