Pedestrian malls in the United States

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Times Square Pedestrian Mall[1] in New York City

Pedestrian malls in the United States are also known as pedestrian streets and are the most common form of pedestrian zone in large cities in the United States. It is a street lined with storefronts and closed off to most automobile traffic. Emergency vehicles have access at all times and delivery vehicles are restricted to either limited delivery hours or entrances on side streets.[2]

"Pedestrian mall" as a term is most often used in the United States and Australia. "Pedestrian street" and "Pedestrian zone" are the more common term worldwide.


In the 1960s and early 1970s, many mid-sized U.S. cities installed pedestrian malls in their downtown areas, as a response to increasing traffic jams and the commercial success of self-contained edge-of-town shopping malls.[citation needed] In 1958, Atchison, Kansas became the first American city to adopt a pedestrian mall for their downtown area, closing three blocks of Commercial Street to automobile traffic after a flood devastated the downtown area.

In 2009, there were at least 75 pedestrian malls in the U.S.[3] Besides the Kalamazoo Mall, some notable examples are the Church Street Marketplace in Burlington, Vermont; the Downtown Mall in Charlottesville, Virginia; the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, California; the Fremont Street Experience in Las Vegas, Nevada; the Buffalo Place Main Street Pedestrian Mall in Buffalo, New York; Ithaca Commons in Ithaca, New York; the Pearl Street Mall in Boulder, Colorado; St. Charles, Missouri; Salem, Massachusetts; Ped Mall in Iowa City, Iowa; Lincoln Road in Miami Beach, Florida; the Fulton Mall in Fresno, California; the K Street Mall in Sacramento, California; the 16th Street Mall in Denver, Colorado; State Street in Madison, Wisconsin; Nicollet Mall in Minneapolis, Minnesota; The Grove in Los Angeles, California; Fort Street Mall in Honolulu, Hawaii; City Center in Oakland, California; Walnut Street in Des Moines, Iowa, Downtown Crossing and Faneuil Hall/Quincy Market in Boston; Washington Street Mall in Cape May, New Jersey; The Downtown Cumberland Mall in Cumberland, Maryland; and more recently former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg worked hard over his final term in office to create pedestrian malls in major tourist centers that had also been areas of severe automobile congestion such as Times Square[1] and Herald Square, and many others around the country. Typically these downtown pedestrian malls were three or four linear blocks simply blocked off to private street traffic, with fountains, benches, planters that doubled as seating areas, bollards, playgrounds, interfaces to public transit and other amenities installed to attract shoppers.

Many were later re-converted to accommodate automobile traffic within twenty years. However, most of these areas are still popular attractions today. The Pearl Street Mall in Boulder continues to thrive with its college crowd atmosphere and the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica thrives on tourist traffic. The Downtown Mall in Charlottesville, Virginia, now a vital business, entertainment, and retail area, spent roughly twenty years as a somewhat depressed stretch until an ice skating rink and multiplex opened on it in the mid-1990s. Broadway St. in Eugene, Oregon, is finally being developed with a hotel, movie theater, and retail after decades of limited economic activity following its experiment with a pedestrian mall. The Federal Plaza in Downtown Youngstown, Ohio is a similar case. Since the unsuccessful Federal Plaza has been ripped up and redesigned in 2004, the city of Youngstown has seen the development of a new entertainment district erupt. A new arena, two new courthouses, federal buildings, bistros and other new night-spots have placed themselves in Youngstown's core. Burlington, Vermont's Church Street Marketplace has been expanded from the original three blocks to four, encompassing the entirety of the city's commercial "main street," and remains a thriving cultural center with shops, restaurants, vendor carts, sidewalk performers and special events which does not appear to be affected by the development of big box store farms in neighboring Williston. Poughkeepsie, New York, on the other hand, has reverted its Main Mall to vehicular traffic, having failed at maintaining a place pedestrians wanted to be (it was, at least in part, Poughkeepsie's initial success which convinced Burlington to proceed with its Marketplace project).

The San Antonio River Walk is a special-case pedestrian street, one level down from the automobile street. The River Walk winds and loops under bridges as two parallel sidewalks lined with restaurants and shops, connecting the major tourist draws from Alamo Plaza to Rivercenter, to HemisFair Plaza, to the Transit Tower. Most downtown buildings have street entrances and separate river entrances one level below. This separates the automotive service grid (delivery and ambulance/police vehicles) from pedestrian traffic below, provides bridges, walkways, and staircases, and attempts to balance retail, commercial, office, green space and cultural uses.

Urban renewal[edit]

In the last decades of the 20th century many urbanists such as Jan Gehl and Peter Calthorpe have listed and explained what they see as the virtues of pedestrian streets. Urban renewal activists have often pushed for the creation of auto-free zones in parts or in all of the sectors of a metropolitan area.

Legal status[edit]

In some locations, the definition of a pedestrian mall is codified. Examples include the Las Vegas[4] and Riverside, California.[5]

Environmental impacts[edit]

Pedestrian malls are streets that have limited or prohibited motor vehicle access, with the intent to create a walking zone. This may be done to create a safer environment in areas that have high pedestrian traffic, to reduce the noise and pollution levels, or to increase exercise levels by encouraging walking.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Torossian, Ronn (14 May 2014). "New York For New Yorkers". New York Observer. 
  2. ^ "How to Create a Pedestrian Mall". Retrieved 2009-04-14. 
  3. ^ "North America cities that have (or had) a pedestrian mall". Retrieved 2009-04-17. 
  4. ^ "Title 11 VEHICLES AND TRAFFIC". Retrieved 2009-04-14. 
  5. ^ "Riverside Municipal Code" (PDF). Retrieved 2009-04-14. 
  6. ^ Pojani, Dorina (11 May 2005). "Downtown Pedestrian Malls: Including a Case Study of Santa Monicas Third Street Promenade.". pp. 46–47. Retrieved 30 March 2012. 

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