Despite hesitation, street pedestrianisation shows having a positive economic impact in many Spanish cities.

More and more cities are committed to banning motorized traffic from certain streets. However, sometimes it is not easy to implement measures that favour the pedestrianisation of certain areas, which are susceptible to rejection from both political and private sectors considering that there may be a negative economic impact.

With the idea of clarifying the economic effect of street pedestrianization, a recent study analyzes the influence of pedestrianizing urban spaces promoting economic development.

The results show that shops in pedestrian environments tend to have higher sales volumes than shops in non-pedestrian environments

Key factors on street pedestrianization and economic impact

The research is based on the hypothesis that pedestrian-friendly spaces improve the shopping experience, attract more customers to the retail sale and increase sales volume.

When examining the mechanisms behind spatial agglomeration in the urban economy, walking activity was found to increase random shopping encounters compared to intentional shopping.

To run the hypothesis, they used a dataset of BBVA card transactions to estimate sales volumes in almost all Spanish cities with great spatial granularity. These data are combined with historical land use changes from the OpenStreetMap (WHO) dataset.

The cities used to develop the study were Barcelona, Badalona, Palma, Seville, Madrid, Valencia, Sabadell, Bilbao, Valladolid, Granada, Murcia, Malaga, Zaragoza and Gijón. The transaction study was developed over almost two years.

Among the relevant facts found, we can highlight the following:

  1. Shops on pedestrian grids generate higher revenues than shops on non-pedestrian grids.
  2. Small and medium-sized cities notice a greater difference in economic impact, as pedestrian streets generate a positive percentage impact over non-pedestrian ones.
  3. A correlation was found in land use change and sales volume, i.e. streets that were previously non-pedestrianised suffered positive economic effects once pedestrianised.
  4. Geographic location is insignificant in pedestrianisation. In other words, there is no significant relationship between the strategic location of the pedestrian area and the economic impact on businesses in the area.
  5. A higher density of cafes and restaurants attracts more people to the pedestrian environment than to the non-pedestrian environment.
  6. On the other hand, when it comes to shopping for everyday items, the trend is not significant, with no major differences between shopping in pedestrian and non-pedestrian environments.

Retail density and pedestrianisation, the perfect equation

One of the interesting points raised by this research is that when there is a concentration of shops combined with a pedestrianised environment, the impact on shops is greater.

This shows that the environment generated in these pedestrian environments plays an important role in this impact, where people's lives are concentrated and people's minds invite them to stay in these commercial hotspots.

Pedestrianisation is one of the key points in improving people's mobility in urban environments. A key factor is to have spaces where transit is not strictly a matter of passing through, but also of staying in the place. As mentioned Sara Ortiz Escalante in the recent interview that we conducted on Feminist Mobility, mobility in urban terms was considered as commuting from home to work and from work to home, without stating that within the city there are many other forms of mobility with a more rhizomatic and less one-way dynamics.

Pedestrianisation has a direct impact on the local economy, and affects the behavior of movement within cities.

And you? Do you prefer pedestrian environments, or would you rather be able to go everywhere with your car?