“It’s an incredible experiment”: Banning cars in cities stirs controversy—and has mixed results

Though closures are on the rise, Bertolini’s research shows that the vast majority create only temporary change. “At worst they’re seen as an annoyance, disrupting the function of the system, and at best like a carnival for a few days or a few weeks to do things different,” Bertolini says. “But hardly any serious attention is given to ways of experimenting—of a fundamental different way of thinking that could be scaled up.”

Closures have also been criticized for creating safe streets that largely benefit white populations, while ignoring larger inequities in city planning—inequities that disproportionately impact Black and brown communities. “…[T]he lack of a process and participatory decision-making behind these projects was an absolute nightmare,” urban planner Destiny Thomas wrote on CityLab about the rush in many U.S. cities to open streets in response to the coronavirus pandemic. “…If you want to ban cars, start by banning racism.”