MOSCOW - The Russian capital is a city of many layers. But on street level, it is all about the traffic jams. To unluck the eternal congestion -- and resulting pollution -- Mayor Sergei Sobyanin is set to unveil a plan to close selected streets to motor vehicle traffic, creating areas and whole routes reserved for pedestrians and bicycles.

The streets would be closed on weekends, holidays and for special events.  “The goal is to institute pedestrian areas in the city, with the possibility of stopping traffic on certain streets on weekends for pedestrians,” said Maxim Liksutov, the head of the city’s transportation department.

Moscow already has two pedestrian-only streets, including the famous Arbat street in the city center, but does not have weekend street closures that have become popular elsewhere around the world.

Earlier this week, the city announced that it was looking into more than 100 possible routes for pedestrians and bicycles, both in central Moscow as well as in the outskirts. Mayor Sobyanin believes that more pedestrian streets will both beautify the city and attract more tourists.

Liksutov said that the creation of the weekend pedestrian zones would have to go hand-in-hand with a complex analysis of movement in the city, both on the road and in public transportation. The city, he said, already has the means to model traffic based on nuances like the how many seats are free in movie theaters (which in turn affect the traffic around the theaters). He also explained that additional parking spaces would be added near the streets that are shut down. And for closures that last several days, the city will also try to get Wi-Fi access set up in the pedestrian zone, Liksutov said.

The mayor’s office is planning to start the weekend street closures before the end of 2012, and will announce the final plans regarding which streets will be closed about a months before the closures.

*This is a digest item, not a direct translation

Read the full article in Russian in Kommersant.

Photo - Cavin