Cities For People

Jan Gehl is a world renowned and visionary architect from Copenhagen. He was in Toronto and Ottawa recently to promote his new book ‘Cities for People’.

Take a look at some of his automobile-heresy from a Record article written about him

  • Perspective of the pedestrian moving along a street at five km/h is the most important when new developments are planned
  • The paradigm has shifted from city building for cars to cities for people
  • Bike lanes are plowed first in the winter
  • Parked cars are used to protect cyclists …, cyclists are not used to protect parked cars

I always thought that the way transportation planning was done was to make room for the cars on roads and parking lots. Then after that if it’s possible make an allowance for cyclists. Basically, the difference between mediocre and great biking cities was which and how many allowances were made.

But it seems like that level of commitment is not sufficient when making pedestrian or bike friendly cities. It takes a much bigger initiative from politicians, planners, and ultimately from voters since they deliver the mandates.

As the Record article linked above points out, Waterloo Region is ludicrously dependent on automobiles measuring 400,000 cars for 535,000 people. That’s the second highest dependency in Canada. And the trend does not seem to be reversing either with $70,000,000 city budget for parking garages downtown compared to the 20 year budget for bicycle infrastructure – $6 million dollars (you read that right – 20 years bike budget is $6 million).

Looks like downtown business owners are joining planners off the ‘cities for people’ wagon too showing their lack of support cyclists in the downtown area (note to business owners – put a bike rack out front or back instead of complaining; maybe you’ll be surprised).

So, to get where Gehl and Copenhagen are from where we are would require an about face in the priorities placed on how the city plans downtown and uptown development. Does anyone think that kind of bold leadership is possible within our lifetime?

I’m going to start by reading his book.

3 thoughts on “Cities For People

  1. When I read that article a while ago I was shocked to see K-W is number two in car dependence.
    I suppose this is do to the amount of new residents that have moved there over the years and poor planning for things such as bikes and transit. I was surprised at the amount of opposition to the planned LRT there.

    I really don’t see many Canadian cities advancing in proper bike infrastructure, with perhaps the exception of Montreal, Vancouver and MAYBE Ottawa.

    I believe last year a poll came out saying Canadians would give up nearly everything before they gave up their cars.
    We need cities to build the proper bike lanes, build a proper transit system, then tax the hell out of the use of cars.

    1. The scary part is the venom that comes out in any public forum about infrastructure. Comment replies to news stories are one example. Now there’s public servants like Rob Ford whipping up hysteria too.

      In this region, it’s very easy to drive a car to town, motorists are catered to. For example, there’s plenty of free parking in uptown Waterloo. Kitchener too, although to a lesser extent.

      It really says that in this region, we haven’t reached the pain point for traffic congestion yet. Which I find insane given the traffic that I’ve sat in. LRT is unpopular for that reason IMO. There’s ironically too few cars in Waterloo Region right now to make it popular.

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