How can we revitalise our shopping streets?

Shopping streets are public places, the core of 20-minute neighbourhoods, where we as a community build wealth, access goods and services, meet and socialise. They also act as transport corridors, moving people between suburbs. Our challenge is to make our shopping streets better for business by attracting regular, repeat patronage from local residents.

If a town centre is an attractive place to live, work and play — with renovated bike paths, lots of parks, restaurants and nightlife — that draws young graduates, the newly retired and more.

The Economist
A shopping street (Carlisle St) in Melbourne. Image credit: Google Maps.

Proposed design

We advocate for Yarra’s shopping streets to be upgraded with wider footpaths, bicycle lanes, level access tram stops and more trees. Cars share a lane with trams and shoppers park on side streets. For our 20 metre wide tram-based shopping streets, we call this the ‘Melbourne Shopping Street’ reference design.

Existing and proposed layout for Swan Street. Image credit: Streets Alive Yarra.

Place making

The ‘Melbourne Shopping Street’ reference design delivers more place making than existing conditions, with wider footpaths and more trees.

Place making on a shopping street. Image credit: OCULUS.


The ‘Melbourne Shopping Street’ reference design offers more ‘movement’ capacity than existing conditions, because it prioritises the two modes with the highest people carrying capacity – trams and cycling. Other possible street layouts carry fewer people, because trams are slowed by cars and because a sub-standard bicycle lane won’t attract many people. Our better for trams page describes how trams can travel faster when cars can’t overtake, and the best-practice bicycle lane transports more people than either a parking lane or a peak-hour car lane.

Source: VicRoads


The ‘Melbourne Shopping Street’ reference design offers more parking for shoppers than existing conditions, by using the first 5-10 bays on each side street (i.e. this is more metered parking for shoppers than was previously directly on the street). Combined with the improved place making, the outcome is better for business.

The first locations to consider suspending parking spaces are in town centres and along high streets, where pressures on street space are often the greatest, both for movement through and access via the kerbside (including bus stops, cycle parking and loading). The suspension of on-street car parking bays can help relieve this pressure to support greater movement and access for walking, cycling, buses and freight. Retaining car parking in these areas should not be at the expense of accommodating these needs and access to shops and amenities.

Streetspace for London car parking guidance
Image credit: Revitalize, or Die


The ‘Melbourne Shopping Street’ reference design delivers a safer environment for all users, and aligns well with Safe System, as shown by Safe System assessments conducted by both VicRoads and Streets Alive Yarra.

Safe System assessments of various options for 20 metre wide tram-based shopping streets.

Built form

The ‘Melbourne Shopping Street’ reference design aligns with the ‘Linear Barcelona Model’ as proposed in ‘Transforming Australian Cities’:

Excerpt from the proposed design and development overlay (DDO) for transport corridors, from ‘Transforming Australian Cities’


Cross-sectional dimensions of the ‘Melbourne Shopping Street’ reference design are shown below:

Cross sectional view of a 20 metre wide tram-based ‘Melbourne Shopping Street’. Image credit: Streets Alive Yarra & Streetmix.

Proposed trial

We suggest that the ‘Melbourne Shopping Street’ reference design can be trialled on Brunswick Street, which is a 100% council controlled street. Download and read our full proposal:

Alignment with ‘Soft City’

The ‘Melbourne Shopping Street’ reference design is similar to Vesterbrogade in Copenhagen, described in the book ‘Soft City‘ as a busy thoroughfare that accommodates a great diversity of users. The ‘Melbourne Shopping Street’ reference design differs only by the removal the central 0.5 m traffic island and the addition two rows of trees, made possible by Yarra’s slightly wider (20 m vs 19 m) tram-based streets.

Image credit: Soft City

Guidance from Auckland

Auckland City Council’s Business Case for Walking showed a very similar design for a shopping street:

Image credit: Auckland City Council

Examples from Amsterdam

This photo shows a tram-based street in Amsterdam, with space for trees, protected bicycle lanes and wide footpaths.

Image credit: Chris Bruntlett

This video shows Ferdinand Bolstraat in Amsterdam, a thriving tram-based shopping street that also moves many people. The ‘Melbourne Shopping Street’ reference design is similar, but with two tram/car lanes instead of one.

Detailed designs

The following pages describe specific streets in more detail:

Take action

Let’s build a beautiful, liveable and accessible city