n. A street that gives pedestrians and bicyclists priority over cars, and is designed in a way that allows pedestrians to safely use the entire street.
Bordeaux, for example, has declared war on the automobile and made 75 per cent of its city streets "unfriendly" to cars. For 20 years, the Dutch have designated residential streets as woonerfs or "living yards" where cars may only enter if they're invited.
—Gina Mallet, “Putting the brake on automobiles,” The Globe and Mail, August 08, 1992
As in other parts of the continent, pedestrian-only streets and reduced speed limits are common in Dutch towns, and car parking is prohibited in many areas. Residential streets are often transformed into woonerven—"living yards" with low speed limits and physical barriers such as sharp curves or landscaping to discourage fast driving. All means of transport are allowed in a woonerf, but bicyclists and pedestrians have priority and cars enter only as "guests."
—Marcia D. Lowe, “Reinventing the wheels,” Technology Review, May 01, 1990
1978 (earliest)
The Woonerf solution, tried in Delft and to a lesser degree in several other Dutch cities, simply seeks to right the balance again. Design features convey the impression that the whole street is as available to the pedestrian as the motorist.
—Neal R. Pierce, “.. And Humanizing the Streets,” The Washington Post, December 04, 1978