Featured: Cities for People – Jan Gehl

January 6, 2012 — Leave a comment


Page 5

Again, there’s this issue of having no desire to walk or bike because there is no reason to desire any time spent on most of our narrow sidewalks or random bike lanes. Gehl provides so many examples in writing and illustrations on what this city quality could be on individual streets: Copenhagen is often a fine example, as is Venice (the pedestrian city), and the Campo in Sienna. As a companion book to Cities for People, Allan Jacobs’s Great Streets details many of these same streets, providing additional measurements, aerials and profile drawings to give some order to what can be a difficult quality to describe.

Returning to the fundamental assumption though – that the human scale is the most important – a few ideas must be shared because they expose urban development in my town as not caring much for people. For example:

“Narrow sidewalks have gradually become filled with traffic signs, parking meters, bollards, street lamps and other obstacles placed there so as ‘not to be in the way.’ Understood as ‘in the way of the more important motorized traffic’” (91).

“As far as possible, a good city for walking must function all year round, day and night. In winter it is important that snow and ice are cleared, and, to use the Copenhagen model as an example, pedestrian access and bicycle paths should be cleared before roads for car traffic” (133). Also check out the folks at Copenhagenize for lovely examples of this practice: http://www.copenhagenize.com/search/label/cycling%20in%20winter

“Frequent interruptions are irritating and destroy the rhythms of the bicycle trip. Over the years Copenhagen has introduced several solutions to reduce the problem. Bicycle paths are often carried across minor side streets without interruption… Introducing green waves for bicycles on selected streets helps correspondingly to reduce irritating stops. In order to create these green bicycle waves, stoplights are set so that when bicycles bike at about 20 km/h (12.4) mph they need not stop when they bike to and from the city during rush hour. That service used to be provided for cars” (187).

Or my favorite, because it takes what is a radical idea in the States – complete streets – and suggests it isn’t radical enough: “The concept of shared or complete streets suggests equality between traffic groups, which is a utopian ideal. Integrating various types of traffic is not satisfactory until pedestrians are given a clear priority” (92).

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