Streets without cars turned out to be more profitable for business (research)

    24 May 2021

    Pedestrianization of the streets stimulates the attendance of food establishments located on this streets. This conclusion was reached by analysts of the American platform for finding Yelp services, according to Bloomberg CityLab.

    During the coronavirus pandemic, many cities began to block some streets from car traffic. Such streets are called “open”, “slow”, “healthy”, “safe” and so on. In particular, in the United States, among the 43 cities that are members of the Association of Transport Departments NACTO, 22 plan to keep pedestrianized streets after the pandemic, 16 more are considering this option. At the same time, there are fears among business owners that the lack of cars could have a detrimental effect on the flow of customers.

    However, a number of studies show that the lack of cars does not negatively affect the attendance of institutions, and vice versa – increases demand.

    For example, Yelp surveyed consumer activity by the number of reviews and views of restaurants in several pedestrianized locations: in the Little Italy quarter in Boston, the Mission area in San Francisco, Fulton Market in Chicago, Eighth Street in Boise (Idaho) and San Boulevard Fernando in Burbank, California. The checkpoint was taken on March 15, 2020 – a conditional day before the pandemic. Changes in consumer activity were compared with changes in activity in restaurants located on other streets of these cities, which remained accessible to cars.

    The study found that restaurant traffic increased on car-free streets. Thus, in Little Italy, this figure increased by more than 60%, and in Chicago’s Fulton Market – by a quarter.

    These data may indicate some correlation, not necessarily a causal relationship. After all, the focus here is on catering establishments, which attract people during the pandemic with the opportunity to sit on the summer playground. However, there are other studies that suggest that pedestrianization of the streets at least does not harm business.

    For example, Jenny Liu, a professor of urban planning and urban planning at the University of Portland, cites a large-scale study of the economic consequences of pedestrianized 14 streets in six American cities. It did not have a negative impact on sales and employment, and in some cases showed positive effects, especially for restaurants.

    Another figure: restaurants on Vanderbilt Avenue in Brooklyn, New York, recently reported a 54 % increase in traffic during the first month when the street was made “open.”

    Some cities have even decided to abandon pedestrianization because of this effect. For example, the city of Breckenridge, Colorado, voted against the closure of Main Street traffic, including due to the sharp growth of commerce – despite the fact that pedestrians were supported by almost 85% of residents and business owners.

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