Pedestrianization: Car-free streets make us richer

The positive impacts of pedestrianizing an area can be seen in Copenhagen, with €400,000 gained for every kilometer of bike path. Across the European Union, mortality related to poor air quality is increasingly evident in areas such as Brescia, Madrid, Bergamo, Antwerp, Karvinà, Turin, Vicenza and Paris.

The end of commerce as we know it, an obstacle to freedom and accessibility, an invitation to insecurity, a complete transformation of the essence of the city, a change in the socio-economic profile of the neighborhood that leads to the displacement of local residents, all of these are by-products of this change. Despite numerous arguments against pedestrian and traffic reduction in cities, the evidence supporting this issue has grown significantly over time and is very convincing.

Two recent publications strongly suggest that this trend is gaining momentum. an analysis carried out in 14 Spanish cities showed that the pedestrian resulted in greater commercial revenue. Additionally, when modifications were made, most citizens preferred more walkable and welcoming environments over those prioritizing cars. According to an investigation Held in Copenhagen, the benefits of investing in cycling infrastructure are undeniable. Each kilometer of cycle path built represents a total annual saving of €400,000 due to the reduction in transport, health and accident costs.

Cities given over to the combustion engine

According to IS Global, the European Union cities with the highest mortality from air pollution are Brescia, Madrid, Bergamo, Antwerp, Karvinà, Turin, Vicenza and Paris. These findings reveal a troubling problem that local authorities must address if citizens are to breathe healthier air. According to their research, 99.8% of people living in major European cities are exposed to levels of microparticles (PM2.5) that exceed what is considered safe according to World Health Organization standards. Unhealthy air can wreak havoc on people’s physical and mental health, leading to cardiovascular disease, breathing problems and even reproductive disorders.

Exhaust pipes are the main culprits in the air pollution we see today. Over the centuries, cities have been redesigned to prioritize cars, and the consequences on the environment and air quality are clear. IS Global states that noise pollution, along with associated health risks, is mainly caused by urbanization. This problem also leads to a decrease in the physical activity of people in cities and restricts their access to green spaces.

Taking this data into account, some cities have chosen to change gears and prioritize reducing the number of cars on the streets. This can be done by creating a pedestrian area, setting restrictions or encouraging alternative modes of transport such as bicycle, or a mixture of all of them. There is some resistance from certain sectors of the public and certain sectors of business to these strategies. However, if implemented correctly, car-free cities can add enormous value to our lives.

The economic benefits of pedestrianization

The study ‘Pedestrianization of streets in urban neighborhoods: economic impacts in Spanish cities’, conducted by the University of Tokyo; MIT concluded that the more pedestrians there are in Spain, the greater the sales volume of companies, regardless of their location. Typically, city dwellers prefer shopping for their daily needs within reasonable walking distance rather than taking a long journey.

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“Pedestrianization of streets can significantly increase the sales volume of small businesses,” explains Yuji Yoshimura, an expert in urban planning at the University of Tokyo and lead author of the study. The study found that people generally prefer car-free areas for activities such as shopping. In addition, the decrease in the number of vehicles also positively affects restaurants and cafes.

“Our results are useful for policymakers to explain changes to retailers located on pedestrian-only streets,” the study concludes. “In addition, pedestrianization actions have broad positive impacts beyond revenue from retailers. For example, positive impacts on people’s mood and mental health have been described; and pedestrianization also helps to reduce negative environmental effects, such as air or noise pollution.”

resistance to pedestrianization

Not so long ago, the streets of Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Malmo were crowded with motor vehicles and exhaust fumes polluted the air. But in recent years these cities have taken a very different approach to transportation that has dramatically reduced the role of cars. When the local government began testing traffic regulation strategies, it encountered resistance from citizens. However, it is necessary to experiment with these measures to reduce traffic in the area. The pedestrianization of its main shopping street in the Danish capital provoked protests and demonstrations in 1962 that went down in history.

Although Copenhagen is a capital and has cars on the streets, it is one of the least congested cities in Europe. The INRIX index reveals that drivers in Copenhagen spend just 32 hours stuck in traffic per year, which is significantly less than residents of Stockholm (102 hours) and London (156 hours). Although Copenhagen does not have numerous pedestrian streets like other cities. To reduce the number of cars on the streets, other methods have been used, such as emphasizing public transport and making cycling a viable option.

The city of Barcelona is to be commended for its massive commitment to cycling infrastructure

With around 400 kilometers of exclusive cycle paths, more and more people are using bicycles as their preferred means of transport. “Roads with heavy car traffic are bad for cyclists and they tend to avoid them. This can be compensated with its own infrastructure for bicycles. In addition, the type of cycle path is important: protected lanes can make any road good for cyclists, they are more direct and have fewer intersections”, he explains. Mogens Fosgerau, economist and researcher at the University of Copenhagen and author of the study describing the value generated by cycle paths in the Danish capital.

“The results of our research show that the provision of cycling infrastructure can lead to greater use of bicycles”, adds the researcher. In addition, for every kilometer of bike lanes built in Copenhagen, 400,000 euros are generated annually in benefits. “There are direct benefits for cyclists, in terms of time and comfort, for public health, through reduced costs derived from a healthier population, and for safety, by reducing the cost of accidents. The net benefit is large and positive.”

With information from climatica.lamarea.com

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