Car-Free Streets Benefit Restaurants, Yelp Survey Shows

Restaurants in areas designated as "slow streets" during the pandemic saw a boost in consumer interest.

Read Time: 2 minutes

May 21, 2021, 8:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


New York City Restaurant

Ayumi Saeki / Shutterstock

As the country moves toward adjusting to a post-COVID reality, the debate over what to do with pandemic-era installations and programs such as "slow streets" and expanded outdoor dining is heating up. The urgency of the pandemic, writes Laura Bliss for Bloomberg CityLab, gave us a glimpse into "how readily urban space can be repurposed for mobility and play, and how quickly human activity can surge back when cars are removed." In a survey of 43 member cities, "the National Association of City Transportation Officials found that 22 were planning on making Covid-era traffic changes permanent, while 16 more were considering it."

Research from Yelp shows that "slow streets" and car-free zones have had a positive impact on local restaurants. Their study "measured the difference in the share of consumer interest between the sample of restaurants in each slow street zone and all restaurants across each respective city, comparing the start of the pandemic (using March 15, 2020 as a proxy), when these programs weren’t yet in place, to the various time periods when the programs were in swing." According to Yelp, "[e]ateries in car-free areas saw more consumer interest (based on the amount of views, posted photos and user reviews on Yelp listings) when their streets were strictly limited to pedestrians and cyclists."

Justin Norman, Yelp’s vice president of data science, said he hopes their research will help inform the future of car-free streets programs. "As local governments and policymakers carve out policies that enact safer streets, we hope this information adds value to that."

Tuesday, May 11, 2021 in Bloomberg CityLab

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