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The battle for street space

Cities around the world are prioritising the use of public transport and reducing space for private cars. Despite the benefits for the environment and congestion, Nick Michell highlights how restricted access for cars has met with opposition from retailers
In Times Square, lanes for vehicles have been removed and replaced with pedestrianised areas

In the past city streets were designed with the private car at the forefront of urban planners’ minds but the steady rise in their numbers has led to heavy congestion, high levels of air pollution and less space for public transport. City authorities are now taking on the challenge of making city centres less car centric and giving priority to more sustainable modes of transport, such as cycling, buses, light rail and walking.

While the benefits for the environment and congested roads are clear, reducing space and access for the private car is not always a popular move with everyone that uses and relies on public street space. Local businesses often believe that restricting the number of cars allowed to visit and park in the city centre could have a detrimental effect on their livelihoods.

“Retail establishments are key stakeholders when we develop public spaces, and we engage them in many different ways,” says Eric Beaton, Deputy Commissioner for Transportation Planning and Management, New York City. “There is no one size fits all description of how retail establishments feel about public space improvements.

Certainly some are highly supportive, while others are concerned about these changes, with many in between the two.”

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Dublin’s battle for car-free streets Cities around the world are prioritising the use of public transport and reducing space for private cars. Despite the benefits for the environment and congestion, Nick Michell highlights how restricted access for cars has met with opposition from retailers