I am perplexed by the almost complete lack of pedestrian districts in North America. Why is it that car-free streets—designed for pleasurable strolling, shopping and hanging out—which have become as common as stoplights or McDonalds in European city centers, are almost non-existent here?
I’ve only seen a few—a couple of blocks in downtown Boston, Rue Prince Arthur in Montreal, Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica and short stretches of downtown streets in college towns like Boulder, Ithaca, Iowa City, Charlottesville and Burlington, Vermont. (A glance at Wikipedia turns up a few more, although I notice many on the list, like the Nicollet Mall here in Minneapolis, are not truly car-free.)
Look what we’re missing. The heart of many, if not most, German, Italian, Dutch, Scandinavian and, increasingly, South American big cities are bustling pedestrian zones that have become favorite spots for young people to gather, lovers to linger, kids to romp, women to show off their new clothes (and discreetly admire the looks of passers-by), men to admire the looks of passers-by (and discreetly show-off their new clothes) and everybody to feel part of the wider community.