Yes, says Wellington, New Zealand (pop. 389,000)!
In North American debates about pedestrian and transit malls, we're usually told that such things only work in Europe, with the implication that age, historic density, and cultural history of European cities makes them unrealistic mentors for the young North American city. Well, as an urban culture, New Zealand is even younger than North America. In fact, the urbanization of both Australia and New Zealand happened around the same time as that of the North American west, and the level of attachment to cars is also comparable. So North America needs a better excuse!
Wellington's "Golden Mile," long the core business strip and highrise office district, is now a two-lane, largely bus-only facility, the last bit of which was finished last November. It features generous sidewalks, near-continuous awnings for shelter (a city requirement) and hardly any commercial vacancies. In fact, the whole thing appeared to be bustling throughout my stay the past week, with plenty of pedestrians and plenty of activity around the abundant street-level retail that lines the entire thing.
The pic above, of course, was taken by the City on a perfect sunny day. Having spent most of the last week in a conference room, I can offer only pics taken early in the morning:
Note the green paint. In Australia and New Zealand there is never any question about where bus lanes are, and zero excuse for not noticing them. Note also that the red bus is about to turn right from one green lane into another; the Golden Mile isn't entirely straight, but the green lines (and abundant buses) make it perfectly clear where it is, and how it works.
I'll come back to some of the interesting details of the Golden Mile, but meanwhile, next time someone tells you that North American cities can't emulate Europe, ask why they can't emulate New Zealand!
First photo: City of Wellington