A public project in Lebanon’s southern city of Tyre is not only giving pedestrians the right of way, but letting them rule the road once a week with car-free evenings called “Mashe Lanemshe,” meaning Come on, let’s walk. Every Saturday evening from 6 p.m. to midnight, a strip along Tyre’s coast from the Islamic University to the Imam Sadr offices offers residents and visitors a place to stroll freely. The project was a joint effort among the municipal council, nearby business owners and a local organization called the Informational and Social Association of Joy.

Mashe Lanemshe also hopes to answer a local need for more public parks, encourage tourism in the city and create a venue for weekly public events, Tyre Mayor Hassan Dabouq said.

The Mashe Lanemshe initiative also attracts tourists headed to Tyre’s public beaches.

Tyre Municipality was initially reluctant to host the project. It wasn’t until the Informational and Social Association of Joy (ISAJ) collected signatures of approval from 50 percent of the street’s residents that local officials became interested. In the end, ISAJ managed to get 98 percent of neighborhood residents to agree to close the road once a week on the condition that it provided parking lots.

Each weekend, project organizers host family-friendly activities like dabke and circus shows, children’s games and face-painting. ISAJ is also planning for environmental-awareness projects.

Some locals say they hope the street will one day become permanently car-free, something inconceivable as long as the area remains an essential part of Tyre’s coastal road. Some restaurant owners are pushing the city government to increase the car-free project to three times a week.