The economic impact of pedestrian zones

In recent years many cities are re-thinking how much of their street space is devoted to cars versus other street uses. This can materialize in many ways, such as removing parking or limiting the street access to cars, either permanently, for limited times or for restricted type of traffic. In commercial areas, these changes can raise skepticism from local retailers since due to fear about the impact on their business.

In this story we look at some of the evidence that has emerged around the impact of pedestrian zones on the local economy from various corners of the world.

The interactive map below shows a selection of the relevant evidence available in the Urbanixm knowledge engine. The knowledge engine is in a proof-of-concept state of development and more evidence will be added over time.

In the following sections we briefly discuss the available evidence and formulate conclusions but encourage readers to follow links to the original content to get a in-depth understanding of the topic.


There is no shortage of evidence demonstrating success stories where commercial streets have been pedestrianized to the benefit of the local economy.

  • A pedestrian plaza on Pearl Street in New York City is said to have increased retail sales by 172% [Streetsblog].
  • An implementation of “shared street” in Auckland, New Zealand lead to double digit increase in both pedestrian footfall and retail spending [Global Designing Cities].
  • Pedestrianization of parts or central Oslo, Norway has lead to economic prosperity for the area, despite local business opposition to the initial plans [Fast Company].

Not all pedestrianization projects are judged an economic success. As a case in point, Buffalo saw increase in economic activity after partially reversing a pedestrianization intervention [Smart Cities Drive].

Further reading

For a tailor made analysis of the topic, Börkur Sigurbjörnsson offers data storytelling consultancy services producing detailed reports or presentations.

Author: Börkur Sigurbjörnsson

Börkur Sigurbjörnsson is a data and information scientist who discovers and communicates data-driven insights through storytelling and helps early-stage startups put ideas into action.

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