Think of a typical Australian shopping street: parked cars occupy the prime public space in front of the shops. But we could instead create a place that’s good for business and is beautiful too. It would attract customers while being good for our physical, mental and social health.
This isn’t a new idea. Realising they can make better use of the space next to businesses to boost sales, shopping centres design places to attract people. That’s why they provide seats, air-conditioning, music, artwork, cafes and plants outside their shops.
Online shopping is even comfier, but it lacks human contact.
We know what works to create people-friendly local shopping streets. Safer speeds, improving lighting, replacing parking with “parklets”, planting street trees and widening pavements — these are just some of the ways.
Below we’ll discuss four reasons to reallocate parking space next to shops. But first, we’ve re-imagined ten car-centric Australian streets to illustrate the benefits of reallocating space to people … to shoppers, diners, riders, children, prams and the mobility-impaired.
Transforming 10 car-centric shopping streets
These re-imagined streets show thriving liveable communities, supporting friends and families to meet, creating local jobs and providing access to fresh food. (Click on and move the sliders to compare the actual and re-imagined streets.)
1. Chapel Street, Windsor, Melbourne, Victoria
2. Beaumont Street, Hamilton, Newcastle, New South Wales
3. Darby Street, Newcastle, Newcastle, NSW
4. Hall Street, Bondi, Sydney, NSW
5. Princes Highway, Woonona, Wollongong, NSW
6. Belvidere Street, Belmont, Perth, Western Australia
7. Oxford Street, Leederville, Perth, WA
8a. Parklet, South Terrace, Fremantle, Perth, WA
8b. South Terrace, Fremantle, Perth, WA
9. Musk Avenue, Kelvin Grove, Brisbane, Queensland
The elephant in the room
In the same space, 20 shoppers can be walking, 12 diners can sit outside a cafe, or 12 customers can park their bikes.
Reducing car parking and travel lanes allowed us to increase green space (up 18%), seating (up 17%) and footpaths (up 6%) in our re-imagined streets.
Encouraging motorists to park on neighbouring side streets or in off-street car parks can free up space for people. In any case, motorists rarely find parking right out the front of a shop — the (rising) number and size of cars makes that impossible.
4 reasons to redesign shopping streets
It’s important to remember: cars don’t buy things from shops, people do. Shopping streets that prioritise people and beauty over cars will attract higher sales, higher retail rental values and reduced shop vacancy rates.
But where will shoppers park? Shoppers are already used to walking short distances from parking on side streets and in off-street car parks.
Switching to other modes of transport for short journeys to the shops is another option.
The evidence suggests gathering outdoors is safer than indoors.
- are safe and easy to cross
- have shade and shelter
- provide rest stops and benches
- are quiet, walkable and rideable
- have interesting things to see and do
- are relaxing
- have fresh, clean air.
More than half of city car journeys are shorter than 5km — and many are even shorter. Ongoing under-investment in safe walking and cycling means Australians feel forced into driving short distances, even though they might prefer to walk or cycle.
Riding or walking to the shops can be a relaxing and enjoyable experience, and shopping streets can be destinations that people enjoy walking around, staying a while and spending more.
More people on the streets builds a sense of community, essential for optimal mental health.
Towns and cities around the world are realising this. Tens of thousands of on-street car parking spaces are being reallocated to people, including in Auckland, Stockholm, Paris, Amsterdam, Milan. Australia can learn from their successes.
- ^ good for business (resources.heartfoundation.org.au)
- ^ isn’t a new idea (theconversation.com)
- ^ what works (www.healthyactivebydesign.com.au)
- ^ speeds (theconversation.com)
- ^ lighting (theconversation.com)
- ^ parklets (theconversation.com)
- ^ street trees (theconversation.com)
- ^ widening pavements (theconversation.com)
- ^ Japan's Old Enough and Australia's Bluey remind us our kids are no longer ‘free range’ – but we can remake our neighbourhoods (theconversation.com)
- ^ parked (theconversation.com)
- ^ elephant (www.dimensions.com)
- ^ other research (doi.org)
- ^ Using valuable inner-city land for car parking? In a housing crisis, that just doesn’t add up (theconversation.com)
- ^ beautiful (www.streetlevelaustralia.org)
- ^ healthy shopping streets (www.healthystreets.com)
- ^ business (resources.heartfoundation.org.au)
- ^ ripping out a pedestrian mall in the CBD (twitter.com)
- ^ higher sales (content.tfl.gov.uk)
- ^ retail rental values (resources.heartfoundation.org.au)
- ^ shop vacancy (content.tfl.gov.uk)
- ^ Parking isn't as important for restaurants as the owners think it is (theconversation.com)
- ^ airborne (theconversation.com)
- ^ inhale (theconversation.com)
- ^ challenge indoors (theconversation.com)
- ^ half (www.aph.gov.au)
- ^ NSW (www.dpie.nsw.gov.au)
- ^ What next for parklets? It doesn't have to be a permanent switch back to parking (theconversation.com)
- ^ Great streets (www.healthystreets.com)
- ^ listen to kids’ ideas (www.telethonkids.org.au)
- ^ should (www.healthystreets.com)
- ^ More than half (www.vichealth.vic.gov.au)
- ^ under-investment (theconversation.com)
- ^ prefer (theconversation.com)
- ^ walking (bjsm.bmj.com)
- ^ one in ten (www.dx.doi.org)
- ^ A$15.6 billion-a-year (doi.org)
- ^ walk (www.sciencedirect.com)
- ^ shopping centres (theconversation.com)
- ^ beautiful (www.streetlevelaustralia.org)
- ^ Auckland (twitter.com)
- ^ Stockholm (twitter.com)
- ^ Paris (twitter.com)
- ^ Amsterdam (twitter.com)
- ^ Milan (twitter.com)
- ^ download (drive.google.com)
Authors: Matthew Mclaughlin, Research Fellow, Telethon Kids Institute, The University of Western Australia