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What is a Pedestrian Mall?

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  • Written By: Sheri Cyprus
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 07 November 2016
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A pedestrian mall is a downtown city shopping area blocked from vehicle traffic, but open to foot traffic. Most pedestrian malls are two to four blocks long. A pedestrian overpass may or may not be included in an area designated as a car-free, pedestrians-only zone. Pedestrian malls can be found in many cities in the world.

In Germany, a pedestrian mall is called a fussgangerzone. Frankfort, Germany, is home to one of the most popular German pedestrian malls. It's located on a street called The Zeil and clothing shops, fruit stands, bakeries and eateries are found in this vehicle-free zone. In Shanghai, China, the Nanjing Road Pedestrian Mall is a big tourist attraction. The mall includes hotels, theaters, sculptures and a tour train for sightseers. The shops in the Nanjing Road mall are a mix of old and new as well as Chinese and Western. Fast-food chain restaurants blend with silk shops.

The first American city to have a pedestrian mall was Kalamazoo, Michigan. This led to Kalamazoo receiving the nickname "The Mall City." When the car-free Michigan shopping zone was first created in 1959, it was four blocks and remained that way until 1999 when it was reduced to two blocks to allow for more traffic in the area. The Downtown Mall in Charlottesville, Virginia, features tree-lined sections and a red brick pedestrian walkway. Charlottesville's pedestrian mall is a blend of historic buildings, unique boutiques, theaters and open-air restaurants.

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Typically, pedestrian malls get reduced in size over the years to allow for more traffic in a city's downtown core. Pedestrian safety in terms of vehicle traffic growth is a main concern of urban planning committees. A pedestrian mall may be temporarily closed while construction is occurring in the downtown area. Many successful pedestrian malls are near tourist attractions as well as offices. Malls with bars and clubs tend to draw a strong nightlife.

Success tips for pedestrian mall creation include choosing a location near subways, bus stops and car parking lots. Stores selling large items such as refrigerators and dining sets don't usually do as well in pedestrian malls. Shops such as clothing and art boutiques are popular pedestrian mall destinations, as are open-air cafes and restaurants.

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