Car-free zone

Car-free zone

Car-free zones (also known as auto-free zones and pedestrian zones) are areas of a city or town in which automobile traffic is prohibited. They are instituted by communities who feel that it is desirable to have areas not dominated by the automobile. Converting a street or an area to car-free use is called "pedestrianisation".


A large number of European towns and cities have made part of their centres car-free since the early 1960s. These are often accompanied by car parks on the edge of the pedestrianised zone, and, in the larger cases, park and ride schemes. Central Copenhagen is one of the largest and oldest examples: the auto-free zone is centered on Strøget, a pedestrian shopping street, which is in fact not a single street but a series of interconnected avenues which create a very large auto-free zone, although it is crossed in places by streets with vehicular traffic. Most of these zones allow delivery trucks to service the businesses located there during the early morning, and street-cleaning vehicles will usually go through these streets after most shops have closed for the night.

The term "pedestrianised zone" is used in British English, and most other European countries use a similar term (French: zone piétonne, German: Fußgängerzone, Spanish: zona peatonal).

There are also many towns and cities which have never allowed motor vehicles.The archetypal example is Venice, which occupies a myriad of islands in a lagoon, divided by and accessed from canals. Motor traffic stops at the car park at the head of the viaduct from the mainland, and water transport or walking takes over from there.

Other examples are Cinque Terre in Italy, Ghent in Belgium, which is one of the largest car-free areas in Europe and Rhodes old town, since many, if not most of the streets are too steep and/or narrow for automobile circulation.

Sark, one of the Channel Islands just out from the northern coast of France, is also a car-free zone. Transport there is mainly by horse-drawn cart and freight is pulled by tractors.

The medieval city of Mdina in Malta does not allow automobiles past the city walls. It is known as the "Silent City" due to the absence of motor traffic in the city.

Freetown Christiana has banned cars within its borders. However, parking space for 14 cars has been established within its borders.

Mount Athos, an Autonomous Monastic State within the sovereignty of Greece, does not permit automobiles on its territory. Trucks and work-related vehicles only are in use there.

North America

In North America, the creation of pedestrian-friendly urban environments is still in its infancy. Few cities have pedestrian zones, but some have pedestrianized single streets. Many pedestrian streets are surfaced with cobblestones, or pavement bricks, thus discouraging any kind of wheeled traffic, including wheelchairs. They are rarely completely free of motor vehicles. Often, all of the cross streets are open to motorized traffic, which thus intrudes on the pedestrian flow at every street corner. In a few pedestrian streets with no cross street cars or trucks deliveries are made by trucks by night.


Some Canadian examples are the Sparks Street Mall area of Ottawa, the Distillery District in Toronto, Scarth Street Mall in Regina, Stephen Avenue Mall in Calgary (with certain areas open to parking for permit holders) and part of Prince Arthur street in Montreal. Algonquin and Ward's Islands, parts of the Toronto Islands group, are also car-free zones for all 700 residents. Since the summer of 2004, Toronto has also been experimenting with "Pedestrian Sundays" [] in its busy Kensington Market. Granville Mall in Halifax, Nova Scotia was a run-down section of buildings on Granville Street built in the 1840s that was restored in the late 1970s. The area was then closed off to vehicles.

United States

Mackinac Island in Michigan banned horseless carriages in 1896, making it auto free. The original ban still stands.

In the 1960s and early 1970s many mid-sized cities in the United States experimented with installing pedestrian malls in their downtown areas, as a response to the commercial success of self-contained edge-of-town shopping malls. Downtown retailers wanted to preserve their businesses; the cities wanted to defend their tax base. In 1959, Kalamazoo, Michigan became the first American city to adopt a pedestrian mall for their downtown area, closing two blocks of Burdick Street to automobile traffic. Ironically, they were working from a plan by Victor Gruen Associates, the same firm responsible for the first modern shopping mall in the country, Northland Shopping Mall in suburban Detroit.

In 1997 there were about 30 pedestrian malls in the U.S. Some notable examples are the Church Street Marketplace in Burlington, Vermont; the Downtown Mall in Charlottesville, Virginia; Ann Arbor, Michigan; Oak Park, Illinois; the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, California; 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 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; Downtown Crossing and Faneuil Hall/Quincy Market in Boston; and many others. Typically these downtown pedestrian malls were three or four linear blocks simply blocked off to private street traffic, with fountains, benches, sittable planters, bollards, playgrounds, interfaces to public transit and other amenities installed to attract shoppers.

Most of these experiments were failures in the respect that they cut off automobile traffic from retailers. Most were re-converted to accommodate automobile traffic within twenty years (originally 200 were founded of which around 30 remain). However, some 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, Vermont. 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, the initial success of the Main Mall which convinced Burlington to proceed with the Marketplace project).

Fire Island in Suffolk County, New York is car free east of the Fire Island Lighthouse and west of Smith Point County Park (with the exception of emergency vehicles)

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 unavoidable automotive service grid (delivery and ambulance/police vehicles) and pedestrian traffic below. It's an extensive system which achieves a niceSays who balance among retail, commercial, office, greenspace and cultural uses. It gives the city an intricate network of bridges, walkways and old staircases, providing haptic and visual complexity. From an urban planning standpoint, the River Walk may be the bestSays who pedestrian-only realm on the continent, no motor vehicles or bicycles allowed.

In the last decades of the 20th century many urbanistsWho says 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.

outh America


Argentina's big cities; Córdoba, Mendoza and Rosario have lively pedestrianised street centers ( _es. peatonales) combined with town squares and parks which are crowded with people walking at every hour of the day and night. Most (if not all) of Argentina's cities are human-scale and pedestrian-friendly, although vehicle traffic may be hectic in some areas.

In Buenos Aires some stretches of Calle Florida Street have been pedestrianised since 1913. [es icon Calle Florida History: [] ] which makes it one of the oldest car-free thoroughfares in the world today. Car-free Calle Florida, Lavalle and other streets contribute to a vibrant shopping and restaurant scene where street performers and tango dancers abound, streets are crossed with vehicular traffic at corners.


A number of islands, including the islands of Borkum in the North Sea, islands of Istanbul including Büyükada, Kinaliada and Heybeli ada, Sark and Herm in the Channel Islands, Mackinac Island in Michigan, Paquetá Island in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and Hydra in Greece enforce a ban on motor vehicles.


Several dozen new carfree neighborhoods have been built in recent decades, mostly in Europe. An example is Vauban, a neighborhood of 5,000 in Freiburg, Germany.

* North Africa contains some of the largest carfree areas in the world. Fes-al-Bali, a medina of Fes, Morocco, with its population of 156,000, may be the world's largest contiguous completely carfree area, and the medinas of Cairo, Casablanca, Meknes, Essaouira, and Tangier are quite extensive.

* Towns in many low-income countries are effectively largely carfree simply because cars are uncommon in those countries. As cars become more common, however, many of these towns are suffering from the ill effects that accompany motorization. The most serious instances can be found in Africa, where road death rates, expressed in terms of fatalities per vehicle, reach extreme values.

* Auto-free zones are fewer in North America. One example is the residential area of the Toronto Islands. A number of cities have created single pedestrian streets. Mackinac Island, between the upper and lower peninsula of Michigan, prohibits motorised vehicles on the island, except for emergency vehicles. Travel on the island is largely by foot, bicycle, or horse-drawn carriage. An 8.5 mile road, M-185, rings the island, and numerous roads cover the interior. M-185 is one of the few highways in the United States without motorized vehicles. Downtown Crossing in Boston is a shopping district which prohibits automobiles during daytime hours. Both the main thoroughfare of Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, and Memorial Drive, a busy road in Cambridge, MA are closed to car traffic each Sunday during the summer to allow pedestrians, bikers, skateboarders and roller/inlineskaters an opportunity to use the road.

Auto-free zones have a great variety of attitudes or rules towards human powered vehicles such as bicycles, inline skates, skateboards and kick scooters. Some have a total ban on anything with wheels, others ban certain categories, others segregate the human-powered wheels from foot traffic, and others still have no rules at all. Many of the Middle Eastern examples have no wheeled traffic, but use donkeys for freight transport.

ee also

* Carfree day
* List of carfree places
* Carfree Cities
* Living street
* Jan Gehl
* Principles of Intelligent Urbanism
* Bicycle City

External links

* [ World Carfree Network]
* []
* [ Community Cycles - Working towards creating car-free lifestyles]
* [ Carfree areas worldwide, from Autofrei Wohnen] (in German with a few English pages or English subtitles)


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