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Pedestrianisation is a clunky word but it might be an idea to get comfortable with its pronunciation.

The idea of clearing out motorised forms of transport in order to create an area — usually of an urban centre — free of noise, pollution and congestion is nothing new, though it is rapidly becoming a key plank in the revitalisation of city planning.

Auckland Council has just unanimously voted to pedestrianise Queen St. That, and the possibility of a waterfront stadium, could be vital to bringing some heart back to the centre of a sprawling metropolis.

On a bigger scale, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo has revealed plans to pedestrianise the centre of the French capital, largely with the aim of reducing pollution. Her scheme, with the wonderful label "Paris Breathes", would introduce pedestrianised Sundays in the central arrondissements with a view to eventually getting all vehicles out of the middle of the City of Lights.

Locally, both Dunedin and Oamaru are inching ever closer to pedestrianisation, and it seems only a matter of time before both take the plunge.

Earlier this year, Mayor Dave Cull acknowledged Dunedin was "heading in that direction" following calls to pedestrianise George St as part of the central city upgrade plan. And in Oamaru, trials continue on turning the lovely Victorian precinct into a car-free zone at weekends and during holiday periods.

There will always be those who object to such plans. Some businesses fear their bottom lines will be significantly affected by the loss of vehicle traffic, for example.

And some motorists, already feeling under the pump as they are hammered with the message to get on cycles or use public transport where possible, grumble about a future that will involve increasingly difficult navigation of inner-city areas.

But the arguments for pedestrianisation are simply too compelling to ignore.

Environmentally, it makes sense to try to lower the levels of vehicle emissions in a city centre — indeed, anywhere. Removing vehicles makes city centres safer, and more pleasurable to negotiate, as congestion is reduced. It promotes walking — essential in the age of obesity. And, economically, there is evidence to show businesses benefit from the boost in foot traffic and window shopping, and rental rates increase as people want to live and work in places where there are no exhaust fumes or traffic noise.

City living does not have to be all hustle and bustle. There is an opportunity here to create better places, to develop city centres with real soul, and Dunedin and Oamaru can lead the way.


Pedestrianising is pied a terre.

Being pedestrian is a sackable offence.





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