Living Street
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Living Street
A living street (or Gångfartsområde - Walking speed area) in Malmö, Sweden.
Young boys playing in a New York City street, 1909

A living street is a street designed primarily with the interests of pedestrians and cyclists in mind and as a social space where people can meet and where children may also be able to play legally and safely. These roads are still available for use by motor vehicles, however their design aims to reduce both the speed and dominance of motorised transport. This is often achieved using the shared space approach, with greatly reduced demarcations between vehicle traffic and pedestrians. Vehicle parking may also be restricted to designated bays. It became popular during the 1970s in the Netherlands, which is why the Dutch word for a living street (woonerf) is often used as a synonym.

Country-specific living street implementations include: home zone/play street (United Kingdom), residential zone (ru: ?, Russia), shared zone (Australia/New Zealand), woonerf (Netherlands, Flanders, South Africa, Namibia) and zone résidentielle (France) Spielstraße (Germany).


Legislation was introduced in the United Kingdom with the Highway Act 1835 which banned the playing of football and games on the highway.[1] In 1859 a total of 44 children were sent to prison for failure to pay fines for playing in the street in London and Middlesex,[2] rising to 2,000 young people under the age of seventeen by 1935.[3]

As the level of fast motorised traffic increased during the 20th century it became apparent that the social and recreational functions of the street were being severely impaired by the volume, speed and dominance of vehicular traffic.

The woonerf movement originated in the Netherlands in the 1970s as a way of re-balancing the relationship between people and the movement of vehicles.


These streets are often built at the same grade as sidewalks, without curbs. Cars are limited to a speed that does not disrupt other uses of the streets (usually defined to be pedestrian speed), or through traffic is eliminated using bollards or circuitous one-way operation. To make this lower speed natural, the street is normally set up so that a car cannot drive in a straight line for significant distances, for example by placing planters at the edge of the street, alternating the side of the street the parking is on, or curving the street itself. Other traffic calming measures are also used.

However, early methods of traffic calming such as speed humps are now avoided in favor of methods which make slower speeds more natural to drivers, rather than an obvious imposition. Implementations of living streets that fail to address motor vehicle speed and volume usually result in domination of the street by motor vehicles and the marginalisation of walking and cycling. Furthermore, the elimination of a clearly defined boundary between vehicles and pedestrians can negatively affect walkability for those with sensory disabilities, most notably blindness.[4]

Around the world

Country Name Maximum Speed (km/h) Details Notes
Australia Shared zone
Australia Bike boulevard 30 Described by the Department of Transport (Western Australia) as "an innovative program designed to make cycling safer and easier". Bike boulevards are marked with blue-and-white Safe Active Street road patches at major entry points.[5]
Austria Wohnstraße
("Living street")
Similar legislation as in Germany
Belgium Woonerf / Woonstraat (Dutch / Flemish)
Zone de rencontre (French / Walloon)
20 Usually same grade, parking is only allowed in marked places.
Canada Woonerf Woonerfs are planned for Toronto,[6] where they have been approved for the West Don Lands community and are being discussed for Queens Quay along the waterfront, and for Montreal,[7] where one will replace an alley covering the former course of the St-Pierre river in Saint-Henri.
Czechia Obytná zóna ("Residential street") 20 Usually same grade, parking is only allowed in marked places. In Czech law since 2001
Finland Pihakatu
("Yard street")
20 Pedestrians have absolute right of way. Parking is only allowed for bicycles and mopeds or in marked places. The first living street was introduced in 1982 in Forssa.
France Zone de rencontre
("Encounter zone")
20 Usually same grade, parking restrictions not specified The first living street was introduced in 2008.
Germany Verkehrsberuhigter Bereich
("Traffic calming area")
6 Vehicles should not travel faster than a pedestrian speed. If not same grade then street usable by pedestrians. Parking is only allowed in marked places. Pedestrians, including children, may use the entire street and children are permitted to play in the street

In everyday language, a Verkehrsberuhigter Bereich is also called a Spielstraße ("play street").

Under German traffic law motorists in a Verkehrsberuhigter Bereich are restricted to a maximum speed of 7 km/h, .[8]
Netherlands Woonerf 15 Usually same grade
New Zealand Shared zone Similar to Australia
Norway Gatetun ("Courtyards") 15
Poland Strefa zamieszkania
("Residential zone")
20 Pedestrians (including playing children, even without parental supervision) can use entire street and have absolute precedence over vehicles. Parking is only allowed in marked places. Speed calming devices do not have to be marked using road signs. The sign that marks an end of a living street also obligates a driver to give way to other participants in road traffic[9]
Russia ?
("Living zone")
20 No through traffic or parking with engine running.
Serbia Zona usporenog saobra?aja ("Decelerated-traffic zone") 10 Vehicles should not travel faster than a pedestrian speed and without interfering with pedestrians or cyclists. Both beginnings and endings of living streets are marked.[10] Introduced by the legislation change in 2009, with first living streets introduced in September 2010.[11]
Slovakia Obytná zóna ("Residential street") 20 Usually same grade, parking is only allowed in marked places.
Spain Calle residencial ("Residential street")
Sweden Gångfartsområde ("Walking speed area") 7 Applies to both motorized vehicles and bikes. Pedestrians have absolute right of way. No parking, except in marked places.
Switzerland Zone de rencontre
(French: "Encounter zone"), Begegnungszone
(German: "Encounter zone")
20 Usually same grade. Parking is only allowed in marked places. Introduced by the legislation change in September 2001.
Link: Zones de rencontre
Turkey Yaya öncelikli yol ("Pedestrian priority road") 20 Pedestrians (including playing children, even without parental supervision) can use entire street and have full right of way, however, the pedestrian shall not prevent a vehicle passing through. No parking except in marked places. Both beginnings and endings of living streets are marked.
United Kingdom Home zone
Living street
Link: Signing
United States Woonerf

Street signs

See also


  1. ^ "Origins of Rugby". Rugby Football History. Retrieved . football for the common man was being suppressed, notably by the 1835 highways act which forbade the playing of football on highways and public land - which is where most games took place
  2. ^ "Observations". Hansard. The House would be surprised to hear that under that Act, no fewer than forty-four children were sent to prison in the metropolis last year, and since the commencement of this year twenty-five had been sent to prison. He would mention particularly two or three of these cases. George Dunn, aged twelve years, was sent to gaol for five days for playing at a game called "rounders" in which the boys stood in a ring and knocked a hall from one to another.
  3. ^ "Play Streets in London timeline" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2009-07-29.
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-06-15. Retrieved .CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  5. ^ "Safe Active Streets Program". Department of Transport. Retrieved 2017.
  6. ^ Hume, Christopher (2008-12-18). "Queens Quay future looks brighter than ever". The Star. Toronto. Retrieved .
  7. ^ Heffez, Alanah (2011-05-01). "Saint-Pierre River Site to Become Montreal's first Woonerf". Spacing Montreal. Montreal. Retrieved .
  8. ^ Right-of-way Brian's Guide to Getting Around Germany, Rules of the Road (Accessed 07/02/2007)
  9. ^ "Internetowy System Aktów Prawnych". Dz. U. 1997 nr 98 poz. 602 (with further changes - the unified text). Journal of Laws of the Republic of Poland (in Polish). 2012 [First published 1997]. Retrieved .
  10. ^ "Zakon o bezbednosti saobra?aja na putevima". §161 (in Serbian). 2019 [First published 2009]. Retrieved .
  11. ^ " ?, ? ? ? ?" (PDF) (in Serbian). 2010. Retrieved .

External links

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