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Strøget, Copenhagen's pedestrian zone.

Pedestrian zones (also known as auto-free zones and car-free 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.

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.

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

The first purpose-built pedestrian street in Europe was the Lijnbaanmarker in Rotterdam opened 1953. The first pedestrianized shopping centre in the United Kingdom was in Stevenagemarker in 1959.

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 Copenhagenmarker is one of the largest and oldest examples: the auto-free zone is centered on Strøgetmarker, 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.

Car free towns, cities and regions

There are many towns and cities in Europe 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. However, motor vehicles are allowed on the Lidomarker. Other examples are Cinque Terre in Italymarker, Ghentmarker in Belgium, which is one of the largest car-free areas in Europe and the Old Town of Rhodesmarker, since many, if not most of the streets are too steep and/or narrow for automobile circulation. Mount Athos, an Autonomous Monastic State within the sovereignty of Greecemarker, does not permit automobiles on its territory. Trucks and work-related vehicles only are in use there. The medieval city of Mdinamarker in Maltamarker does not allow automobiles past the city walls. It is known as the "Silent City" because of the absence of motor traffic in the city. Sarkmarker, an island in the English Channelmarker is a car-free zone where only bicycles, carriages and tractors are used as transportation.

Car free islands

Sarkmarker, one of the Channel Islands just out from the northern coast of Francemarker, is also a car-free zone. Transport there is mainly by horse-drawn cart and freight is pulled by tractors. Borkum, Germanymarker an island in the North Seamarker is auto-free. Freetown Christianamarker in Denmark has banned cars within its borders. However, parking space for 14 cars has been established within its borders. Hydra, Saronic Islandsmarker in Greece is also auto-free. The islands of Istanbulmarker including Büyükadamarker, Kinaliadamarker and Heybeli adamarker are auto-free.

North America

In North America, where a more commonly used term is pedestrian mall, such areas are still in their 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 Streetmarker Mall area of Ottawamarker, the Distillery Districtmarker in Torontomarker, Scarth Street Mall in Reginamarker, Stephen Avenue Mall in Calgarymarker (with certain areas open to parking for permit holders) and part of Prince Arthur street in Montrealmarker. Algonquin and Ward's Islands, parts of the Toronto Islandsmarker group, are also car-free zones for all 700 residents. Since the summer of 2004, Toronto has also been experimenting with "Pedestrian Sundays"[50849] in its busy Kensington Marketmarker. Granville Mallmarker in Halifax, Nova Scotiamarker 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

In the United States, these zones as commonly called pedestrian malls or pedestrian streets.

Auto-free zones are less common in the United Statesmarker, although some cities have created single pedestrian streets. Mackinac Islandmarker, between the upper and lower peninsula of Michigan, banned horseless carriages in 1896, making it auto free. The original ban still stands. , except for emergency vehicles. Travel on the island is largely by foot, bicycle, or horse-drawn carriage. An road, M-185marker 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 Crossingmarker in Bostonmarker is a shopping district which prohibits automobiles during daytime hours. Both the main thoroughfare of Golden Gate Parkmarker in San Franciscomarker, and Memorial Drive, a busy road in Cambridge, MAmarker are closed to car traffic each Sunday during the summer to allow pedestrians, bikers, skateboarders and roller/inlineskaters an opportunity to use the road. In 2009, Times Square in New York Citymarker became pedestrian only.

Fire Islandmarker in Suffolk County, New Yorkmarker is auto free east of the Fire Island Lighthousemarker and west of Smith Point County Parkmarker (with the exception of emergency vehicles).

Supai, Arizonamarker, located within the Havasupai Indian Reservationmarker is entirely car-free, the only community in the United States where mail is still carried out by mule. Supai is 8 miles to the nearest road, accessible only by foot, horse/mule, or helicopter.

South America


Calle Florida, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Argentina's big cities; Córdobamarker, Mendozamarker and Rosariomarker have lively pedestrianised street centers ( ) 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 Airesmarker some stretches of Calle Florida Street have been pedestrianised since 1913. 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 performer and tango dancers abound, streets are crossed with vehicular traffic at corners.


Paquetá Islandmarker in Rio de Janeiromarker is auto-free.


Since 1998 Bogotámarker created many pedestrian streets including the the 2.3km long Jimenez Avenue and the 17km long Porvenir Promenade.


Sai Yeung Choi Street in Hong Kong
In Hong Kongmarker, the most popular pedestrian street is the Sai Yeung Choi Street. It was converted into pedestrian street since 2003. From December 2008 to May 2009, there were 3 acid attacks which corrosive liquids were placed in plastic bottles and thrown from the roof of apartments down onto the street.

Pedestrian zones in Japan are called hokosha tengoku (歩行者天国, literally "pedestrian heaven"). Clis Road, in Sendai, Japan, is a covered pedestrian mall. Several major streets in Tokyomarker are closed to vehicles during weekends. One particular temporary hokosha tengoku in Akihabaramarker was cancelled after the Akihabara massacremarker in which a man rammed a truck into the pedestrian traffic and subsequently stabbed more than 12 people.


North Africa contains some of the largest auto-free areas in the world. Fes-al-Bali, a medina of Fesmarker, Moroccomarker, with its population of 156,000, may be the world's largest contiguous completely carfree area, and the medinas of Cairomarker, Casablancamarker, Meknesmarker, Essaouiramarker, and Tangiermarker are quite extensive.


Martin Place, Sydney, Australia

In Australia as in the US, these zones are commonly called pedestrian malls and in most cases comprise only one street. Most pedestrian streets were created in the late 1970s and 1980s, the first being Rundle Mallmarker in Adelaide, opened 1976. Of 58 pedestrian streets created in Australia in the last quarter of the 20th century 48 remain today, ten having re-introduced car access between 1990 and 2004.. All capital cities in Australia have at least one pedestrian street of which most central are: Pitt Street Mallmarker and Martin Placemarker in Sydney, Bourke Street Mallmarker in Melbourne, Queen Street Mallmarker in Brisbane, Hay Street and Murray Streetmarker Malls in Perth, Elizabeth Streetmarker in Hobart, City Walkmarker in Canberra, and Smith Streetmarker in Darwin.

Empircial studies by Jan Gehl indicate an increase of pedestrian traffic as result of public domain improvemets in the centres of Melbourne with 39% increase between 1994-2004 and Perth with 13% increase between 1993-2009.

Most intensive pedestrian traffic flows on a summer weekday have been recorded in Bourke Street Mall Melbourne with 81,000 pedestrians (2004), Rundle Mall Adelaide with 61,360 pedestrians (2002), Pitt Street Mall Sydney with 58.140 (2007) and Murray Street Mall Perth with 48,350 pedestrians (2009).

The island of Rottnestmarker off Perth is a car free island, only allowing vehicles for essential services. The main form of transport on the island is bicycles, which can be hired or be taken on the ferry.


Several dozen new carfree neighborhoods have been built in recent decades, mostly in Europe. An example is Vaubanmarker, a neighborhood of 5,000 in Freiburgmarker, Germanymarker.

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