For the past year, cars have been banished from a small stretch of cobblestone in central Rome. The street, Via Urbana, has been closed to traffic during construction on underlying gas infrastructure. The car ban has been so beneficial to both pedestrians and local merchants, the city is looking to make it permanent.
Making the narrow street vehicle-free has caused a significant bump in revenue for the surrounding retailers, locals say. From the Guardian:
‘We noticed that with the forced closure of the road, revenue has gone up 30% across the street,’ said [Renato] Gargiulo, who is from Naples and has lived in Rome for 25 years. ‘Before, with all the cars that were parked and the fear of being hit, people didn’t even see the shops. Now they do.’
Previously, pedestrians shared the road with parked cars and weaving scooters. Inspired by a petition that garnered 1,200 signatures, mostly from local business owners, the city is now weighing banning parking on the street. It turns out, people tend to spend more money when they’re not looking over their shoulder for a speeding car (and when they’re moving slow enough to stop and browse). And not just in Rome. When New York introduced pedestrian plazas to busy city streets, retail activity increased. In Philadelphia, replacing some street parking with mini-parks led to an average 20% increase in sales for surrounding businesses.