Persuading for Pedestrian Zones

Viene quantomeno da chiedersi perchè questi restano dei casi isolati e non la bella consuetudine urbana cui dovremmo essere abituati.

| Picture: Istiklal Caddesi, Istanbul |

In Istanbul, waterways ruled strong over the seat of empires. The former Constantinople’s claim to fame came from its geography nestled among the world’s most strategic waterways. Once on land, merchants and other city dwellers would generally utilize human and horse power through narrow streets. Then, automobiles became the city’s main method for movement. As the city grew and its population became more motorized, Istanbul rapidly transitioned from sleepy seat of empires past to modern era of transport terror, where people often commute for up to 4 hours a day and gridlock swallows the city whole. Though, one area decided to restore peace and prosperity: Istiklal Caddesi, a major artery through the heart of modern Istanbul.

The pedestrian zone of Istiklal Caddesi, is not only on every tourist’s to-do list, but also a important hub for Istanbul commerce, culture, and history. This street, built mainly in the 1800s, became dirty, dangerous, and overrun with cars throughout the past decades. The city decided to reinstate the old trolley car lines and make the street a pedestrian zone. Istiklal is now the center of life in Istanbul with up to 3 million visitors a day. Public transport strategically placed on both ends of the street provides access to businesses, nightlife, and cultural. Meanwhile, taxis and private mini-buses provide other access points.

The street is so crowded at any given day of the week or time of day that one could scarcely imagine where a car could even fit. Istiklal Caddesi offers peace in its tucked-away cafes and narrow passages filled with flowers, sweets, and other treasures. Although the path to pedestrianization was not easy.

Good for commerce?

Shopkeepers protested that denying cars access would ultimately hurt their businesses. Still the city proceeded. Business revenues most certainly increased. Although more research needs to be conducted to provide data on how much business might have increased, the differences are clear. Pedestrian zones have more room for people, so logically more people come and ideally, shop, eat, or otherwise spend money.

Overall, Istiklal Caddesi raises an interesting point in Istanbul. For whom and where a place is pedestrianized matters. Pedestrian zones might not be appropriate for all business districts, but in certain places they do reinforce local commerce and bring life back to the streets. Which businesses sit on the pedestrian zone are a major determining factor. Istiklal Caddesi’s main businesses are cafes, restaurants, shops of clothes, books, and music, making it ideal for strolling pedestrians to browse.

The nearby neighborhood of Şişhane is the central business area for lighting stores and heavier home goods, which are usually transported in cars. A pedestrian zone would obviously not succeed in Şişhane because the businesses rely on automobiles, however on Istiklal most businesses don’t need cars. Thus, business zoning is an important factor when pedestrianizing street and convincing local business owners

| Laura Root, thecityfix.com |

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