How Food Trucks Promote Walkable Cities

Food trucks, outdoor dining spaces, and parklets are moving the needle toward more people-friendly cities and less car-oriented streets.

1 minute read

July 11, 2023, 7:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

University of Wisconsin Madison students walking down LIbrary Mall pedestrian area in Madison, WI

University of Wisconsin, Madison / Madison Downtown Business Improvement District

Using Madison, Wisconsin’s Library Mall as an example, Kyle Hoff points out the connection between food trucks and pedestrian- and cyclist-friendly spaces in an article in the Congress for New Urbanism’s Public Square. “For most Americans, food trucks or pop-up tents at an occasional event like farmers markets are the closest thing they will experience to a permanent outdoor market/public plaza like those that can be found more frequently in European cities and elsewhere in the world.”

Food trucks, Hoff points out, thrive in pedestrian-friendly areas with rich foot traffic. As the natural experiment prompted by the Covid-19 pandemic showed, outdoor dining and parklets can boost activity at local restaurants and businesses.

For Hoff, “This is just one example of how pedestrian-friendly design is great for entrepreneurs, pedestrians, and cities as a whole.” As a civil engineer, Hoff urges their peers to design roads and public spaces to encourage activity like food trucks by “narrowing drive lanes, removing on-street parking in cases where the space can be used more efficiently and profitably, and implementing other design measures to make driving fast in cities uncomfortable, and make being outside of a car more comfortable.”

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