Summer is upon us, which means it's time to get outside and go for a walk. One of the best places to take a stroll is on a street without cars, a rarity in the United States. But many cities are following the lead of New York City's recent pedestrianization of a number of its streets and considering the same action in their downtowns; pictured above is Norweigan architects Snøhetta's vision for Times Square, to be realized in the near future.
Walking is some of the best exercise possible, and summer is the ideal time to stretch one's legs, especially on these five Character Approved "streets for people."
These before and after photos of Times Square in Manhattan make clear what happens in a city of 8 million when streets are closed to cars: people come out and use the space. In 2009 the city closed a few sections of Broadway around Times Square, Herald Square (near Macy's), and Madison Square Park, using paint, tables, and chairs. Their success led to a permanent design for Times Square (top photo) and the closure of streets in other parts of the city. [Image: Snøhetta, NYC DOT]
Predating the closure of Broadway in New York City by four decades is Lincoln Road in Miami Beach, a pedestrian mall stretching eight blocks. At its western end is an "an Everglades-inspired environment" designed by Raymond Jungles, part of the larger Character Approved 1111 Lincoln Road development. Jungles bring plenty of trees, water, and shade to help people stay cool in the Miami heat. [Image: Raymond Jungles]
Fremont Street was the essence of pre-automobile Las Vegas, a popular strip that declined as the car-oriented Las Vegas Boulevard added casino after casino. In response, the city closed the street to cars in the mid-1990s, turning it into the Fremont Street Experience. Now a canopy designed by John Jerde wows visitors with a show made from over two million lights. Needless to say, Fremont Street overcame its decline, and is now one of the most visited places in the city. [Image: The Jerde Partnership]
Three blocks of Third Street, which parallels the Pacific Ocean coastline in Santa Monica, were closed to cars in the 1960s. The success of the promenade was negatively impacted by the construction of a nearby mall, so the street was redesigned a couple decades later by ROMA Design Group. The Third Street Promenade, with its mix of chain and independent stores, is a popular destination today, only steps from the beach and Santa Monica Pier. [Image: ROMA Design Group]
Why settle for just one pedestrian street? Mackinac Island, sitting between the Lower and Upper Peninsulas of Michigan, is completely car-free, reached by ferry from the mainland. Horsedrawn carriages and bicycles are allowed, but travel on the small Victorian island is primarily on foot. After leaving the island and returning to the American "reality," you might wonder why more streets for people don't exist in the U.S. With these streets serving as examples, let's hope more are on the way. [Image: mightymac.org]
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