Pedestrian-Only Malls Failing, Opening Back Up to Cars

Tod Newcombe reports on pedestrian-only malls like Buffalo's, which after 25 years has been so unsuccessful that they want to turn it back into a road. So why are these ped malls failing?

Newcombe explains that many of these early pedestrian-only malls were "ill-planned and had little purpose":

"Because so few people lived downtown, the malls became lifeless after work, attracting crime and loiterers, rather than large crowds. According to some estimates, of all the pedestrian malls that have dotted American cities in past years, fewer than 15 percent remain today."

That doesn't mean that ped-only malls can't work, says Newcombe.

Full Story: The Trouble with Pedestrian Malls



Irvin Dawid's picture

Agreed: ped malls largely a failure in Urban America

add Sacramento to that bunch:
Planetizen: Reintroducing Cars To Pedestrian Malls (on the 'K' Street, LRT mall)
Interestingly, since April, 2010, the mall remains closed to autos, and is for the most part, as dead as ever despite some new businesses opening that appear to be doing rather well. However, the mall is opened to bikes - yes, previously cyclists were prohibited from riding on the street.
Irvin Dawid, Palo Alto, CA

Sacto et al. mall.

The reason IMHO Sacto's K St failed is because there is no evening economy there, nor does the LR make sense as an option to get downtown to eat.

I agree it is not a good idea everywhere, but where there is a good residential population and decent evening economy, they make sense.



I don't think it should come

I don't think it should come as a surprise that these pedestrian-focused projects would fail in areas where everyday life is otherwise car-dependent and downtown residency is small.

Pedestrian-only spaces are still a great idea and there are many successful implementations all over the world. But there's no way you can expect to have a success with this model in your city unless you are also working hard towards escaping the constraints of a car-dependent built environment. Putting people in nodes of walkable density that connect via alternative transportation is the key. You can't expect a pedestrian oasis to thrive in the middle of an area that otherwise is hostile to pedestrians.

Irvin Dawid's picture

Road Diets, aka streetscape improvements are better idea

I was thinking about this issue as there are some well-intentioned folks in my community still demanding (permanent) road closures of vibrant business districts. I think the 'road diet' or lane reduction, where possible, is really today's version of a ped' mall - a hybridized version where the cars still in fact dominate, but dont overwhelm......
Irvin Dawid, Palo Alto, CA

Prepare for the AICP* Exam

Join the thousands of students who have utilized the Planetizen AICP* Exam Preparation Class to prepare for the American Planning Association's AICP* exam.
Starting at $245

Essential Readings in Urban Planning

Planning on taking the AICP* Exam? Register for Planetizen's AICP * Exam Preparation Course to save $25.
Wood necklace with city map

City Necklaces

These sweet pendants are engraved on a cedar charm with a mini map of selected cities. The perfect gift for friends and family or yourself!
Rome grey gold tie

Tie one on to celebrate your city!

Choose from over 20 styles imprinted with detailed city or transit maps.