I think that most planners in the US have given up on the idea of pedestrian malls. There are far too many failed examples for the concept to have much life anymore. And yet…..
Above is the ped mall in Boulder which is perhaps the most vital in the country. It is nearing its 40th birthday, proving that time is an essential ingredient to success – we can’t give up on them. It helps that Boulder is a destination town – a place where people are already predisposed to walk. Plus it is a college town. And it has retained a strong local commercial identity, in part because of the mall, which reinforces the mall’s success.
The mall there is only a few blocks long, however. It didn’t spawn a traffic free city. It is more novelty than ideology.
Many European cities now have large car free zones. It works here because of the innate density of the cities, the tight architectural fabric, and the relationship that people have with transportation: they aren’t afraid to walk! Italians love their cars as much as Americans do, they just accept that lots of times they’ll have to walk.
Until and unless Americans adopt the same attitude, we will have a very difficult time transitioning into the low energy future.