Pedestrian-only area designation

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Pedestrian-only area designations are streets that have been designated by a municipality to be accessible only to pedestrians and not to typical vehicular traffic. Some pedestrian streets remain accessible to buses or other forms of transit, some are accessible to bikes, others restrict access to pedestrians alone. Typically, a pedestrian-only area is a central business district street, often a main street, with a variety of retail and restaurant businesses that are attractive to pedestrians.



A city has a street in a central business district that already attracts some level of pedestrian traffic and has a pedestrian-oriented character. Perhaps the street works reasonably well with a combination of transportation modes, or perhaps the vehicular traffic limits and creates a hazard for pedestrian use. The city decides to close the street to vehicular traffic and designates it as a pedestrian-only area. This designation may occur through redirecting traffic patterns, installing bollards at entrances, and/or redesigning the street as public plaza.


Tradeoffs of implementing this policy may include:

  1. Increased vehicular traffic on neighboring streets
  2. Reduced level of access by emergency vehicles
  3. Increased difficulty of access for delivery vehicles
  4. Increased distance from parking areas to businesses in designated area
  5. Reduced bus transit access to designated area, if area excludes buses.
  6. Reduced cycle access, if street excludes cyclists.
Compatibility Assessment

If answered yes, the following questions indicate superior conditions under which the policy is more likely to be appropriate:

  1. Is there a street in the central business district that already attracts some level of pedestrian use and has a pedestrian-oriented character?
  2. Is there sufficient density and variety of destinations to make the street desirable for pedestrian use?
  3. Are there nearby alternate routes to which vehicular traffic could be rerouted?
  4. Is the existing combination of vehicular traffic and pedestrian use creating an unsafe or undesirable environment for pedestrians? (i.e. the vehicular right of way limits the sidewalk width to a less than ideal width for the amount of desired pedestrian usage)
  5. Is there a lack of other pedestrian-only areas nearby? (i.e. will the new area be in competition with a nearby pedestrian-only district, or does it have sufficient draw to support a high level of pedestrian use?)

The following questions should be considered when determining how to implement this policy:

  1. What section of the street should be limited to only pedestrians? Where should it begin and end?
  2. How should the vehicular traffic be rerouted at either end of the pedestrian-only area?
  3. Should the street remain open to transit and bicycles, or closed to all users except pedestrians?
  4. How can emergency vehicles be assured a sufficient level of access to the pedestrian-only area?
  5. How can this pedestrian-only area be physically linked with other transportation infrastructure, such as a bus, rail, or multi-modal station?
  6. How can this pedestrian-only area be physically linked with other pedestrian networks, such as other pedestrian-oriented streets, greenways, plazas, and parks?
  7. What new zoning codes or ordinances should be passed to encourage a pedestrian-friendly built environment in the pedestrian-only area?
  8. How can local businesses and stakeholders of property adjacent to the pedestrian-only zone be engaged in the process of creating the zone? (i.e through public workshops, or establishing/engaging with an existing business improvement district)


  • For governance level(s): Local.


  • Constituent Groups - Local Businesses. Assumption: If the businesses on the street see high foot traffic, but see it as being limited by conflicts with car traffic, narrow sidewalks, or lack of space for outdoor restaurant seating.
  • Constituent Groups - Tourists. Assumption: If the pedestrian-only area creates a centralized and iconic location to direct and attract tourists to patronizing local businesses.
  • Advocates - Pedestrian Safety. Assumption: If the pedestrian-only area removes vehicles, it removes the hazards associated where pedestrians and vehicles mix. Specifically, dangerous vehicular intersections or crossings, and/or areas with formerly undersized sidewalks for the amount of typical foot traffic.
  • Associations - Business Improvement Districts. Assumption: If the pedestrian-only area designation is part of or becomes an identifiable, centralized destination for retail, it can attract more business patrons and adds to the visible investments around the business district.
  • Constituent Groups - Commuters. Assumption: If the route that would be closed to vehicular traffic is seen as a primary thoroughfare to commute to certain parts of the city, they may see a pedestrian-only area designation as lengthening and complicating their commute.
  • Government Agencies - Emergency Medical Services. Assumption: If the pedestrian-only area designation makes it more difficult for fire trucks and ambulances to access all parts of the city, including the pedestrian-only street itself.


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