Community

Should Boston have more pedestrian-only roads? Boston.com readers say ‘absolutely.’

“People are happier when we get out of our cars and walk around.”

As restaurants make the most out of the last summer weekends before dining outside becomes frigid once more, these three Sundays provide a unique experience for those in Boston. Pat Greenhouse / Globe Staff

This Sunday, Boston will host its third installment of 2021 Open Newbury Street. Held every year during the summer months, the shopping street in the city becomes a pedestrian-only road from Massachusetts Avenue to Berkeley Street. 

The concept, which has been ongoing for the past several years, blocks vehicle access to the road, allowing pedestrians to roam freely providing a unique experience for looking to shop or dine out along Newbury. 

Making streets more pedestrian friendly, walkable, or more accessible for bicyclists has been in Boston’s infrastructure agenda for several years now. Go Boston 2030, which was first introduced in 2017, is an example of some of the policies and changes the city is trying to implement for their residents.

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We asked Boston.com readers whether they would support more pedestrian-only walkways on major road and received over 4,500 responses to our survey and across social media. 

The overwhelming majority (92.5%) was in favor of changing a major road in their town or neighborhood into a pedestrian-only road. Mary from West Roxbury said pedestrian-only roads allowed for people to relax and enjoy the street rather than having to worry about the cars driving by on the road. 

On the other hand, those respondents who opposed open-pedestrian roads (7.5%) felt that it would create major traffic problems in other areas, such as a street one block over, as well as a lack of parking spaces. 

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Here’s a sampling of what readers said. 

Responses have been lightly edited and condensed for space and clarity.

Would you support a pedestrian-only walkway on a major road in your town or neighborhood?

Most readers said yes, ‘absolutely.’

“It’s long past due to make public spaces people-centered and not a car-centered pass through. It’s better for businesses and better for the community by making vibrant spaces where people can walk, shop, and eat without risking being smashed by reckless drivers, and better for the environment. What’s not to love?” — Mary, West Roxbury

“More people discover businesses they wouldn’t discover by driving. Good for health, environment, and tourism.”

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“People are happier when we get out of our cars and walk around.” — Rich, Melrose

“I think it’s great. I think closing streets makes people more inclined to walk (and distance themselves from others during COVID) while recreating and commuting, like Cambridge does with Memorial Blvd on Sundays.”

“I would absolutely support more pedestrian streets. I would also support safe bike routes, more parking so visitors can stop and walk, and roads that aren’t closed or pinched due to construction during peak hours.”

“Cars are wonderful, but driving on urban streets is miserable. Walking is really the ideal way to travel around our city spaces. I think that the ideal environment would involve a combination of pedestrian-only zones with increased parking capacity at the edges of these zones (as well as significantly improved public transportation) to allow people to peacefully enjoy the urban landscape.” — John, Malden

Some suggested expanding pedestrian-only streets.

“We desperately need pedestrian only streets in the North End. The streets are too small to support outdoor dining, foot traffic, AND car traffic. In addition, it would actually be easier for emergency vehicles to get through if they only had foot traffic to worry about.” — Amanda, North End

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“I would like to see Mass Ave. closed/rerouted back to its original form between carriage road between Tremont and Shawmut, and restore Chester Park.” — Addison, Jamaica Plain

“I believe that Newbury St. should be permanently pedestrianized (with allowance for deliveries) and that the concept should be expanded to portions of commercial centers around the region (such as Medford Square).” — Peter, Medford

“It’s so much more peaceful and human feeling without the endless backup of cars. Here in Somerville, there’s talk of making one side of Davis Square pedestrian only with more permanent outdoor dining space. We do need to balance business needs (preferably with underground, edge-of-square parking) along with a more peaceful, human experience where cars aren’t the dominant feature.” — Stacy

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“The same should especially be done to Salem or Hanover [streets] in the North End. But, every neighborhood in Boston deserves a pedestrianized area where people can simply exist and spend time in the outdoors of their city without the constant noise, pollution, and threat of cars.” — Danny, Roslindale

Others said no to the concept of pedestrian-only roads.

“People who live in the area need to park. Everything doesn’t have to be pedestrian and bicycle friendly. Residents have a voice as well.”

“It will just increase traffic congestion on the other roads in town.”

“I don’t support any closures of any streets in any city in the Commonwealth. It is an annoyance to residents and drivers alike. It takes up too many parking spaces and creates a driving nightmare. It is already a major problem to drive and park anywhere they’ve closed streets already, especially in Boston.” — Ron, Boston

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“It’s a bad idea on any main street. Traffic and delivery nightmares.”

“Terrible idea. The foot traffic increases but does it help retail business on the street. Seems to benefit restaurants only.”

“It’s fine for Newbury Street since it’s a main thoroughfare where parking is a pain anyway, but it’s not designed for all types of streets and towns. It would be a disaster to have it anywhere in Brookline.” — Eliot, Brookline

Readers share additional ideas for car-free zones

Top submissions (yellow on map):

  • Charles Street
  • Commonwealth Avenue
  • Hanover Street
  • Harvard Square
  • Tremont Street

Other submissions (green on map):

  • Around the Fens (Park Drive)
  • Boylston Street
  • Cambridge Street
  • Commercial Street, Provincetown
  • Dartmouth Street
  • Downtown side streets
  • E. Street and West Broadway
  • Harvard Avenue
  • Lansdowne Street
  • Marlborough Street
  • Massachusetts Avenue
  • Maverick Square
  • Salem Street
  • Seaport Boulevard
  • Shawmut Avenue
  • State Street
  • Summer Street
  • Washington Street

Some of our readers submitted I-93, Memorial Drive, and Storrow Drive as potential streets, all which we might agree will not become car-free any time soon. However, it is a likely scenario that a pedestrian-only Storrow Drive would decrease the amount of trucks that get stuck under the bridges every year. 

Boston.com occasionally interacts with readers by conducting informal polls and surveys. These results should be read as an unscientific gauge of readers’ opinion.

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