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In America, a street built for pedestrians is still a growing idea.  However, in Europe this idea is a normal part of life. Pedestrian streets have been a part of European culture for hundreds, even thousands of years, despite changes in how people transport themselves.  Cars, trains and buses have been integrated tactfully in many European cities while still preserving these pedestrian corridors.

Also known as a car-free zone, the largest pedestrian street in Europe is located in Copenhagen, called Strøget.  According to one Canadian news source, this street boasts a little over one mile of historic buildings with fine shops, eateries and more. The Strøget connects two squares, one on each end of the street.  Beyond that, about 80,000 people a day walk this car free zone in the summer, and slightly more than half of that in the winter. The Strøget started as a radical change to rid this street of cars in the early 1960’s, and ever since then the city has been giving more space to pedestrians and bicycles, and less to cars. Air quality in the area has improved since implementing this pedestrian street and directing cars elsewhere.

America is working to integrate pedestrian streets and make them a part of the culture. Times Square, right here in New York City, has created a pedestrian plaza.  It evokes mixed emotions out of New Yorkers.  Some people say that Times Square will lose its charm, and many cab drivers are displeased with losing their pickup spots.  Others are hopeful that this will create a more pleasant Midtown Manhattan experience.  Officially created in February, 2010, Bloomberg reports that creating these plazas has improved traffic flow seven percent faster than before.  Injuries to motorists and pedestrians are down, 63 percent and 35 percent respectively. Bloomberg also reports that vehicle-caused pollutants are down 40 percent.

All-in-all, the pedestrian plaza have positive effects for the pedestrian and the motorist. They are a win-win in the constant conflicts between pedestrians and cars.  The Times Square pedestrian plaza shows that this type of infrastructure helps reduce carbon emissions and save money on gas, all while improving traffic flow.  The Strøget and Times Square show how a balance between the car and pedestrian can make everyone happy in the long run.

Earthgarage – Greener car.  Fatter wallet.