Gladsaxe Day, Saturday 24 August 2013, photo: Gladsaxe Kommune

Gladsaxe Day, Saturday 24 August 2013, photo: Gladsaxe Kommune

The issues of suburbia, the everyday, creating better public spaces for everybody, not only in the city centers, seem more pressing than ever for many reasons: the environmental effects of our building and transport patterns, an aging housing mass, a changing demography with shrinking households, the need to be attractive to compete with other cities and regions, etc. Despite many visions, competitions and initiatives, there are still many unanswered questions when it comes to the suburbs and everyday spaces.. Try to find good examples, it can be quite hard, and often what you come up with are the usual suspects. However, many suburban projects in suburbs are on now on their way and for good reason as more than half the population either live or work in the suburbs.

I must admit that I find the everyday spaces of the suburbs some of the most interesting to work with. Suburbs are often hard to grasp, they may even seem a bit banal, but this is what makes them so interesting. The thing is that when you start to take a second look, you will soon realize that the suburbs are much more complex than at first glance. There is lots of life happening in a suburb like Gladsaxe, located around 10 kilometers north of Copenhagen, but you may have to look a little longer and more indoors or in private settings to find it.

We have recently had the pleasure to work with the Municipality of Gladsaxe, a true suburb, built in the 60’s with zones for housing, recreation, work, etc. It has been great to work with a municipality that has been really open to investigate what life in Gladsaxe means. The result is a study of life encompassed into a report called GladsaxeLife [GladsaxeLiv in Danish] which reveals specific qualities in Gladsaxe, not suburbs in general and not public life in general.

Granny’s, a bakery in the middle of the an industrial neighborhood, the only 115 m2 sidewalk gives life to the place – even without people

Granny’s, a bakery in the middle of an industrial neighborhood, the only 115 m2 sidewalk that gives life to the place – even without people.

Life in Gladsaxe is not the same as life in the city centers, it has other qualities, it takes place more indoors than outdoors, and it may be more private and tend to be somehow overlooked. We have looked at where life takes place: the train station, the main street – the obvious places – but also the libraries which have high numbers of visitors (800.000 a year) – a meeting place that is non-commercial, democratic, innovative and a knowledge driven space. However, the libraries are enclosed buildings, life is not visible and that is one of the major recommendations to make all the life which is already taking place in Gladsaxe more visible. At one of the local supermarkets the number of visitors is the same, but these everyday spaces, the sidewalk outside the supermarket are not necessarily seen as crucial for life in Gladsaxe. We are somehow stuck in our traditional typologies, but instead of creating new, vast squares, it makes sense to build on the already existing, create new small scale meeting places, celebrate the everyday and all the engaged people in a place like Gladsaxe. It is about taking a second look, where do people meet, how can we add functions and other elements that can spice things up without resorting to wanna-be-urban spaces or the standard café latte answer.


Focus groups with residents of Gladsaxe underlined a wish for more playing elements, places to stop and meet others in a more unplanned way. Photo from Nørrebro, Copenhagen

To work across indoor/outdoor, private/public, it is necessary to work across silos in the municipalities to make it work as well as including external partners. In the coming months we will continue to work with the municipality of Gladsaxe with an education program, combined with live work on hotspots, on selected sites where we are going to test new ideas.

The answer to what life in a Copenhagen suburb might be does not exist already, but we hope Gladsaxe will soon be able to present new versions of suburban spaces in the coming months and years.



HarborPoint in Baltimore. (Graphic: ASG, Baltimore)


By Klaus Philipsen, FAIA, Baltimore USA.
President ArchPlan, Architect, urban designer, writer.
Blog: Community Architect with weekly articles about urban issues and architecture.

Although the linkage between land use and transportation is well understood, the debate about what is cause and effect causes consternation in the land use and transportation agencies.
Therefore, a few thoughts on urban transit and what it takes to do Transit Oriented Development (TOD).

Even in cities one can find plenty of areas that are not transit supportive.Often brand-new transit stations preside over a hole in the doughnut, when sitting in an old railroad, streetcar, or highway right-of-way.  Neighborhoods grow and shrink, shopping areas shift, attractions get added or abandoned, many reasons why transit supportive urban fabric is not necessarily located where transit is or is planned to be.

Development typically follows “the market”. No market and nothing will happen regardless how much somebody would like to fill a hole in the doughnut.

Baltimore has lost much of its industry and a third of its population. It has tried every transit technology: A subway line, a cheaper light rail line, commuter trains and a spaghetti bowl of bus lines. Now a new $2.6 billion cross-town Red Line light rail is planned, downtown in a tunnel, on the surface beyond. In short, transit stations galore, many of them in doughnut holes.

Seen from the development angle stations fall into two groups, those with a market and those in disinvested areas with no or little demand for new development. Given those fundamental differences it may feel illogical to call both areas “TOD challenged”. But neither absent development nor development without consideration for transit are TOD.

Nothing will change if transit agencies declare “we do transit and not land use” and city departments hide behind the walls of their core responsibilities like housing, parks, traffic, planning and economic development. To make TOD happen, it takes all these parties to interact with each other and bust out of their own comfort zones.

In Los Angeles then Mayor Villaraigosa realized this and directed an interdepartmental TOD Subcabinet (Report)


LA TOD, Meridian Village, South Pasadena
(Photo ArchPlan)

In Atlanta the Atlanta Beltline Inc. and the Beltline Partnership, both non profits, worked with a somewhat reversed priority: Trails and parks, have been created prior to transit creating value which spurred new development.

Beltline Map

Atlanta Beltline

In Minneapolis/St. Paul the Central Corridor and the Green Line light rail projects received a HUD Sustainable Communities grant to leverage community benefits (article) resulting in the Corridors of Opportunity. (Video)

In the Washington suburbs a Purple Line Corridor Coalition pursues similar goals for the planned circumferential light rail line connecting various metro terminals.

One of the granddaddies of successful TOD is Arlington County, VA which has used Washington’s Metro for decades to concentrate growth around the county’s subway stations. (slide show). Which brought smart growth to the county and more riders to transit than surface parking ever could.


Clarendon, Arlington County VA, TOD with retail, offices and housing

In Baltimore the state transit agency (MTA) and the city recognized the TOD challenge in a Red Line “Community Compact” for better communities. Land use improvements are required by the Federal Transit Administration for federal funding. In the spirit of these considerations the MTA conducted community based station area planning and the city created new TOD zoning. Yet, while bad regulations may prevent development, even the best regulations and visions will not make development happen. How to get from plans to actual TOD?

The Baltimore Community Compact names a few: Land banking, land disposition, public private partnerships and creative funding. Other steps would be development “freezes” (to prevent new non transit-supportive investments next to a station), facilitation with developers, and land owners to find out how they could be enticed to invest in high risk zones. This could mean scaling development so that several investors come out of the gate together instead of one early pioneer taking all the risk. It also means carefully leveraging public infrastructure investments. A mayoral TOD working group would not simply review developers submissions, but remove obstacles for investment.

Transit supportive land use is not only good transit, it  also grows the tax base and creates equity within communities, many starved for services and access to jobs. An obvious catalytic element in “market challenged” station areas would be good affordable housing.

To make catalytic projects reality, suitable development lots need to be assembled, master developers found, public private partnerships created and public assets leveraged. Assets can be land, entitlements, tax increment financing or bonds.

A proactive interagency group that goes beyond policy and regulation and focuses on implementation is needed to coordinate these steps.

Uneven markets, fear, false perceptions about transit, sentiments against density and years of auto oriented policies must be overcome, investment in the wrong places be made less attractive. In short: Each city needs the “entire village” before TOD visions can become reality.

Read the full-lenght article on the subject at Klaus Philipsen’s blog Community Architect


Just before, we entered into the new year, Foster + Partners, Exterior Architecture, and Space Syntax presented their spectacular, and maybe utopian, project SkyCycle. A project, which would provide over 220 kilometres of safe, car free cycle routes on elevated decks above the existing suburban rail corridors of London. For details of the project visit Foster+Partners website.


Image by Exterior Architecture, Foster + Partners and Space Syntax

It’s not a wonder that this radical suggestion for improving cycling in London has been proposed in the wake of recent tragic cycling accidents in London, and the media attention this has evoked.

The challenge of improving cycling in London was already a hot topic in the Gehl office, so it did not take long before the SkyCycle project sparked a conversation between three of the Gehl partners; Kristian Villadsen, Henriette Vamberg, and Jeff Risom. (Please note that we do not know all of the details related to the SkyCycle project, but would love to know more!).

Here is a peek into the conversation between the three…

The ´Skycycle´ project

Kristian: SkyCycle can been seen as a conversation starter for discussing the topic of cycling in London. Visualizations can be a great way to motivate a discussion as long as they don’t elude people into thinking it’s simple solutions, putting bicycles up in the air isn’t going to solve all conflicts, they are bound to come down at some point and then how do they fit in to the cities network, we need  integrated thinking.

Jeff: In short, I think it is part of a trend of Architects visualizing bold ideas and perhaps exaggerated ideas to start a discussion.  It is great that other major architecture firms help to put focus on bicycling as a part of a sustainable, healthy and economical beneficial model for cities

Henriette: I do not think you should put it off as a crazy idea, because the idea should be understood in its context. Overall bicycles in cities can be used in two ways; The short convenient ride, or the longer commuting ride, the SkyCycle project presents a way of using the railway corridors for efficient commuting by bicycle, going to the city center and then continuing via the cycle lanes, it demonstrate an interesting view on how to commute. Providing people with long tracks for longer and faster transport, and creating an alternative to the daily train ride.

Jeff: It is interesting, but bicyclists are not train riders, and this solution is built on an assumption of what users want when commuting 25 km a day. As opposed to train riders, we have to give bicyclists choice to stop simultaneously, alter their route and interact with their surroundings in another way then you do moving by train.

Henriette: Trains, are overcrowded and break down. This opportunity to cycle provides another possibility that is independent of anything other than you.

Commuting on bicycles?

Kristian: The city of Copenhagen has seen that the willingness of users to commute long distances on bicycles is growing every year, when you make these super quality routes. What is important is that these super cycle highways are a complementary solution, and not a sole solution to the cycling infrastructure of a city. An integrated network into a city, where the flexibility of designing your route every day from your bicycle is still possible. You can diversify your route to incorporate your shopping, visiting the library, or pick up the kids. If you are up on a segregated highway, you are not offered the conveniences that characterize the bicycle ride.

Henriette: In London you have a number of big train stations in the periphery of the city, and it is interesting that a lot of these corridors link the suburb to the city center. I see the SkyCycle network as a possible complement for commuters.

Kristian: But it could be a heavy investment to create this segregated bicycle network.

Henriette: Well not compared to developing the overburdened railway line. The smart thing about using the existing railway corridors in London is that they are continuous, where bicyclists can ride undisturbed by red lights. It is interesting since there are journeys that you just want to use to get from point A to B, a completely different thing than riding your bicycle in a city centre. Important to understand it in that context.

Kristian: There are three aspects related to the height. First, the height itself might exclude children and elderly and people with poor health conditions, simply by being too steep and these are really the groups that needs bicycles to go around. Second, it does seem a little out of the way to put the mode of traffic most influenced by weather conditions up in the air where winds are stronger and there is no protection from climate… they actually end up protecting the trains. Third, of course there is also a safety aspect, when you are up in the air you don’t have the same level of passive surveillance from people in windows and if you meet someone you don’t want to meet, how do you get away if the nearest exit is a mile away, you can’t really jump off…

Cycling in London 2014

Henriette: London has a rising bicycling population, as we know from Andrew Gilligan, Cycling Commissioner for London that accidents are actually going down, there have been a lot of unfortunate accidents.

Kristian: There are lot of other measure you can take other than segregation, when you are aiming for a safe bicycle infrastructure. We had a lot of right turn accidents in Copenhagen, but then a campaign was made and the right turn accidents were radically reduced. It is also about building a culture, not just infrastructure and street. More bicyclists will in themselves generate awareness because car drivers will start to expect cyclists. Still only 2% of people are traveling by bicycle in London, and they still need to get used to the consequences of incorporating cyclist into the city landscape. There are other ways to incorporate cyclists into the city infrastructure without putting them up in the air.

Jeff: It is about creating a joined-up mobility network, with many choices and comfortable, safe viable options where it is possible to go from bicycle to public transport easily and …

Henriette: There is a difference between commuting and city bicycling, the challenge is to integrate the commuting with the bicycling street infrastructure in the city.

Kristian: Another solution is the Green Wave, as in Copenhagen. Where the lights are matched to the bicycles through sensors that will register the speed on the bicycle lanes and adjust the lights. This is not about insisting on being very analog; it is about being smart about using new technologies and ideas for supporting an integrated network.

Jeff: My biggest concern would be a project that invests in mono-functional infrastructure. In 2014, given limited funding and material resources of today, we have to find ways to design and build the next generation of infrastructure that satisfies numerous problems and demands simultaneously. Could investments like this that would be good for cyclists also aid in distributed district heating, trash collection, material recycling,  or work together with regional production and distribution networks to make the ‘last mile’ of supply distribution more efficient.  Or we have to find smart ways to utilize disused infrastructure to satisfy current demands. Could dedicated bicycle tracks run along disused rail corridors?

As the conversation came to an end it was clear, that there is probably not a golden solution to the challenging task of creating a bicycling infrastructure in London. The thing that struck me as the main consideration after hearing the three partners, is their repeated efforts to bring the attention back to the users and their varying needs in the city. What do you think?

On a side note, here is a different type of cycle project in Hamburg that you might enjoy.

And an interesting piece of background to the latest media focus on dangerous bicycling in London.

Following on from our Winter Activities posts, we received this fantastic (and real) story from Chicoutimi, Quebec in Canada. Thanks to Sylvie Pilotte for sharing.


Something strange happened in my city

A concrete bridge caught fire at minus 25 degree Celsius two weeks ago. Repairs were being done under one of the pillars of the bridge; the wooden scaffold that was used caught fire during the evening. As a result, the bridge had to be closed for two weeks. It has not reopened yet.

Fortunately, beside the 40 year old concrete bridge stands an 80 years old steel bridge that is solely used by pedestrians.


In the midst of a very unusual cold wave, temperature varying from minus 15 to minus 25 (minus forty with the wind factor), the citizens of Chicoutimi started walking…

This morning between 6AM and 8:30AM, we counted 3200 people crossing the one-kilometer long old steel bridge from the north shore to the south shore. We assume that maybe a thousand people were walking the opposite way.

The concrete bridge, «le pont Dubuc», supports an important traffic volume, 50 000 vehicles pass the bridge every day. With its closure we have to make a detour of 42 kilometres to reach the other side. That is the reason why the municipality decided to put in place an alternate transportation system to accommodate people who were willing to walk a little. The answer was amazing. I am flabbergasted by the response of my fellow citizens. Not only did they massively choose to walk and use the public transport system, which is free for the length of the crisis, but they also did it with joy and serenity.

So despite the fact that it can be quite problematic for certain aspect of the economy and quite difficult for certain individuals, this interlude in our normal life (it is supposed to end on Sunday) will remain for many a happy souvenir. The atmosphere on the bridge is joyous; we are sharing a new sense of community and the landscape around us is spectacular and we have time to admire it.

For two weeks, we have had a walkable city. As a landscape architect, an advocate of active transport and a true admirer of Jan Gehl’s principles, I can now prove to everybody around me that people in my city can walk too!



Photo: courtesy of MOCI and Exploratorium in San francisco


Living Innovation Zones in San Francisco

It is in our common interest to create a city where quality of life is the key objective. We all have an opportunity as well as a shared responsibility to help the city to become an attractive place to live and work.

But what does it take to inspire private companies to invest effort and money in developing the quality of the public space? Over time numerous financial models for private investment and operation of public spaces have been tested – models for POPS (Privately Owned Public Spaces), BIDS ( Business Improvement Districts) , PPP (Public – Private – Partnerships) have all been implemented and many lessons have been learnt. Now something new is happening in San Francisco. The acronym for this new initiative is LIZ – Living Innovation Zones. They have been developed in partnership between San Francisco’s planning department, the Mayor’s Office of Civic Innovation MOCI and Gehl Architects as a spin-off of the three-year development of the Better Market Street project on Market Street in San Francisco.

In a way, LIZ is as an evolution of the concept for San Francisco’s Park-Let program which over the years has become a more and more formalized part of San Francisco’s strategy for the development of quality in the ‘public space’. In short, a model for temporary transformation of parking spaces into spaces for people to spend time – financed and operated by private owners of neighboring properties, organizations, café – owners, etc.

By initiating the LIZ program the city is attempting to take the Park-Let concept to a new level. The city in collaboration with Gehl Architects has identified 10 potential sites for Living Innovation Zones on the sidewalk along San Francisco’s iconic main street Market Street. 10 sites that in popular terms are considered to be “Bureaucracy Free” zones where the sometimes slow and frustrating processes associated with developing projects in public spaces, are being lifted and streamlined to create greater incentives for private sector organizations to invest in urban projects. As it is the case with Park-Lets, the private party finances, maintains and operates the projects and must also remove and clean up afterwards. In return, the LIZ operators have control over a piece of real estate on the sidewalk on San Francisco’s busiest and most visited street.

Photo: courtesy of MOCI and Exploratorium in San francisco

There are, however, some limitations. LIZ projects are both subject to certain constraints and objectives that all projects in this initiative must meet. Physical limitations will vary from location to location but all projects must be publicly accessible without direct commercial gain (i.e. outdoor serving, sale of products, etc.)

Success Criteria

Also, the projects must target this initiative’s overlying four success criteria – defined as:


We want to create public spaces for people to meet and socialize. We believe that public spaces that are good for people are places where people are safe from traffic and crime. Where people feel comfortable walking, standing and sitting. Where everyone feel invited and spaces that are attractive for people to spend time.


We believe that people are the city’s largest resource. People are attracted to people – And therefore we believe that public spaces that are good for people are good for business as well. Public spaces that accommodate basic social functions for people to meet and invest time are also the spaces where people choose to invest their money.


We believe that people’s imagination is the source of all progress. Our cities must create opportunities for experimentation and testing of new innovations in everyday situations. What place is more suited for this than our public spaces? Where everyday people go about the everyday?


We want public spaces constantly to adapt to the latest innovation, trends and needs of our society. This means we have to document, learn, share and adjust our experience we get from working within the public realm – where innovations are tested by real people.

Yerba Buena LIZ – The first of 10

Gehl Architects have in recent months been worked with the conceptual development of the first LIZ pilot, located at Yerba Buena lane which connects Market Street to Yerba Buena gardens, SFMOMA, the Jewish Museum , Falcone Convention Center and a number of other important cultural destinations in the city. The pilot project is a collaboration between San Francisco’s popular science exhibition center Exploratorium, the local business organization Yerba Buena Community Benefit District (YBCBD), Gehl Architects, Summit Foundation and the city. In addition to meeting the LIZ program’s built-in goals, the pilot is testing the development process in itself. The process of iterative design development, process of collaboration between partners, process of permitting, financing, measuring of effects etc. In many ways it is considered to be a pilot of a pilot.

See video from Yerba Buena Pilot here


Pilot Study Area. Photo: courtesy of MOCI and Exploratorium in San francisco

The initial prototypes are developed by the Exploratorium over a period of three months and the best ones will be installed in position at Yerba Buena lane for the big launch on the 28th of October 2013. However, the projects are “finished” when installed. They will continue to function as living prototypes in the public space at Yerba Buena lane, to be constantly adjusted and refined over a 6-month lifespan.

And it is also an inherent part of the concept that LIZ projects are constantly measured and weighed, in order to collect relevant data, to improve the effect of the program and ultimately create better value for both the private investor and the city.

Crowd-funding in Public Space

It is not only the models of collaboration , partnership and physical street installations which are being tested here – The Yerba Buena LIZ is also testing a new form of financing. With contributions from YBCBD and Summit Foundation the concrete prototypes are being crowd-funded via a regular crowd-funding campaign on the website indiego-go. At the moment of writing this post, 40 % of the funding goal has been reached – by 128 contributors, with 35 days left on the campaign. Why is crowd-funding a public space project interesting? Well, a part of this pilot is actually testing a way of democratically delegated private initiatives in public spaces – where the general citizen, in principle, can engage and take desired ownership for creating initiatives to finance good ideas that change the city’s public spaces into something better.

Time will tell how this initiative fly, but the overall experiences from this first LIZ, will create a foundation for the development of a manual for future LIZ projects in San Francisco. A manual which Gehl Architects is developing, in cooperation with MOCI and San Francisco’s planning department.

Read and see more:
Yerba Buena LIZ
Exploratorium Living Innovation Zone


Photo credit: Odense Kommune

Today we are celebrating World Habitat Day. We are highlighting the continuous need to reflect on the state of the world’s towns and cities and the basic right for all to have adequate shelter. World Habitat Day is in place to remind the world that we are all responsible for shaping the future of our cities and towns.  This year’s theme is urban mobility, emphasized by the recent Global Report on Human Settlements, 2013: Planning and Design for Sustainable Urban Mobility.

In this report the UN Habitat stresses that “mobility is not just about developing transport infrastructure and services, but about overcoming the social, economic, political, physical barriers to movement”. Such a take on mobility requires both a shift in mind-set and in developing new ways of working together.

In the past few months Gehl Architects have acted as consultant for the City of Odense who is in the process of creating a new mobility plan. The mobility plan highlights how mobility contributes to a more social and lively city, a healthier city, an even more sustainable city and increasingly economically prosperous city. Rather than an efficient mobility system being the end goal, mobility initiatives are seen as a means towards meeting some overall goals for the city. In line with the UN Global report focusing on equitable access, the mobility plan for Odense stresses the importance of improving the mobility possibilities for children and other more vulnerable groups.

The view on mobility as much more than just a technical infrastructure issue is also reflected in the types of initiatives proposed in the plan. All initiatives can be termed ‘soft’ measures as they do not involve any hard physical changes. Examples include campaigns aiming to inform about mobility options (e.g. mobility plans for local businesses)  or campaigns creating incentives for people to choose new mobility options – such as car-pooling and car sharing. Initiatives targeted at special groups include cycle tours/training as part of a job training program for unemployed citizens and ‘physically active senior life’ (walking and cycling tours) for elderly.

The many different initiatives follow  a cross-departmental collaborative process, where mobility ideas have been combined and developed with staff from other municipal departments. This is a very interesting model in order to strengthen the holistic and integrated take on mobility needed to make our cities more accessible and livable for all.

Specialfeature_no3Gehl Architects’ Public Space Public Life study of Moscow, which focuses on the central districts of Moscow City was made public on July 16. This ‘special report #3′ aims to incite dialogue around the challenges and opportunities facing the public realm in Moscow and other cities.


By Stine Behrendtzen, freelance journalist
Facts and findings are based on Gehl Architect’s report
‘Moscow — Towards a great city for people’


Towards a reinvigorated Moscow 

Moscow is poised for a bright future, brimming with ideas and opportunities One of these ideas is to transform the traffic-filled waterfront into a green river park. The Russian capital is ready for change – the wish for a more liveable city is sprouting from all levels of society, according to the field team from Gehl Architects. 

”Most human beings feel good when they are close to water. It is like taking a break from your everyday life. It makes you relax, and gives you a sense of calmness”. 

According to Gehl Architects’ Project Manager, Solvejg Reigstad, the rivers and canals in Moscow hold great recreational potential.

Unfortunately most of the waterfront near the city center is currently surrounded by heavy traffic. 93 percent of the space is allocated to cars, creating a barrier between the city and the river. The roaring traffic makes it a noisy place that discourages people from lingering and promenading.

But with the right effort, the long stretch of riverbank could be turned into a beautiful river park – an attractive green area with bike paths, generous sidewalks and floating platforms where people could see and touch the water.

This is one of many ideas for the future outlined in the report ‘Moscow – Towards a great city for people’ which Gehl Architects have recently presented for Moscow Mayor, Sergey Sobyanin, and his team.

DifficultIt is difficult to reach the water



A green vision 

“It would make the city a lot more attractive – for Moscovites as well as for tourists. A lot of people see Moscow as a tough city – an efficient metropolis fit for working but with little room for relaxing, raising children, or even growing old. The river park could create appealing conditions for leisure and family life and generate a lot of optimism”, explains Partner at Gehl Architects Henriette Vamberg. In collaboration with Jan Gehl, Solvejg Reigsted and other team members, she is responsible for the ‘Public Space Public Life’ study that Gehl Architects have recently conducted in the city

P1010637Prechistenskaya today

130107-collage-riverfrontA sketch for a new Moscow riverfront

A city for people 

According to the team at Gehl, Moscow is currently undergoing a sweeping transformation in order to become more liveable and sustainable. A good example is Gorky Park which used to be a nearly forgotten amusement park. Today it contains cafés, boat rental areas, recreational gardens, and outdoor facilities for theater, lectures or film. The park has become extremely popular with thousands of daily users.

Another example is the new bike policy. The transport department is currently working on finding ways to ensure better access to the city by bike and to connect the green park areas in the outskirts of the city with a bike sharing system.


A break with the past 

Alexey Mityaev, who works as an advisor for the deputy mayor of Moscow, Maxim Liksutov, hopes Moscow will become a city with a friendlier cityscape.

“Now we have a list of streets in the city center that need improvement – streets where we are going to widen the pavements, reduce the number of parked cars – and of course provide pedestrians with places to sit, talk and observe”.

This year one of the central streets, Bolshaya Dmitrovka, has been redesigned in that spirit, he adds.

“The street has always been full of cars and parking spaces, leaving very little room for pedestrians. Now it is a quiet street with almost no parking, wide pavements, and benches where people can rest. This is only the beginning of our work on public spaces. For the last 20 years Moscow has been perceived as city designed for cars, but nowadays we are going to put that behind us”.

P1010198Vorovskogo Square today


A sketch for a new Vorovskogo Square

A new direction 

Moscow is ready for change Solvejg Reigstad elaborates.

“I sense it on several different fronts, both from politicians, grassroot movements, and regular citizens. There are many people who wish for a city with more room for life to unfold, and a lot of passionate people who create initiatives to make this happen. It is an extremely exciting evolution”.

With the presentation of the Moscow report Gehl Architects have made a series of recommendations for the city, where the people focused approach serves as a general baseline for initiatives to come. According to Solvejg Reigstad the Russian capital has quite a few under-utilized assets which can reap more benefits than they do today.

”Moscow’s city center is a compact city, perfect for walking and cycling, and the wide boulevards make it possible to give adequate space to all modes of transportation. In addition to this, Moscow has great forests and parks close to the city center. By improving the accessibility for pedestrians and bikes it will become easier for people to use and enjoy the green amenities and it will create a more sustainable use of the city”.

“The city is already a destination for many visitors and tourists and has a great potential for attracting even more visitors and investments”, she adds.

City acupuncture 

But is it in fact possible for a city of Moscow’s size to change within a foreseeable number of years?

Henriette Vamberg is positive when it comes to the prospect of transformation in Moscow. Like the human body, the city’s organism can recover through a focused treatment to specific areas. By gradually improving the most vital parts of the city center – such as the waterfront, selected main-streets and parks – and using the same recipe on similarly challenged areas, a gradual improvement can occur – and spread.

“I think a vision like the new river park can be implemented within a few years. Once there is political endorsement behind a project, things can develop very quickly in Russia”.

Preview of the report ’Moscow – Towards a Great City for People’ produced by Gehl Architects for the Institute of Genplan Moscow.

Last week Kristian spoke at the NAI in  Rotterdam on the topic of ‘Inviting for health through design’ looking at Copenhagen and China. He makes a distinction between how this can be achieved in different global contexts defined by the stage of industrialization and level of car domination in a particular city. In the car-dominated Western cities it is necessary to design invitations for active transit, making walking and cycling attractive and safe. Whilst in less developed economies the challenge is to preserve the pre-existing opportunities to a healthy life ingrained in the culture and fabric that is already there whilst also allowing for economic development.


At the beginning of 2010, in an active effort to shape the transition to a new era of mobility, Audi announced the Audi Urban Future Initiative. The initiative is future oriented, with the aim of establishing a dialogue on the synergy of mobility, architecture and urban development. We believe that finding solutions to the mobility challenges of today and tomorrow can only be done in a collective and interdisciplinary context. This is why we’ve joined forces with architects, urban planners, futurologists, sociologists and scientists from a wide variety of disciplines to create tailor-made, sustainable concepts for future mobility.

So what are we learning through our work with the initiative?

Most definitely, that increasing oil prices and ever-scarcer resources will drive the shift from conventional combustion engines to electric mobility. This will, in turn, serve to reduce CO2 emissions and noise pollution in cities, but it won’t address traffic congestion, road safety or stress-free mobility on an increasingly crowded planet. This is where information technology potentially comes into play. At Audi, a vital part of our vision of future mobility is unlimited connectivity. Cars – and their drivers and passengers – will enjoy a level of connectivity to the Internet, with other vehicles on the road and even with the surrounding infrastructure that will make city driving far safer and also more enjoyable in the future.

In a worId full of constant and omnipresent data exchange between humans and their surroundings, would we still even need a strict demarcation between different modes of transportation?  Or will the mobility of the future become a holistic and flexible blend of public transport like trams and trains, bicycles, planes, cars and walking. I believe the automobile as we know it will become one selection in a wide palette of mobility options for the people of the future. And that we’ll see vast differences in the “mobility mix” of choice from city to city, country to country and region to region.

Even today, 46 percent of the drivers aged 18 to 24 in the car-friendly USA say they would choose Internet access over owning a car, according to research firm Gartner .If owning a car is not a high priority in what ways will cars be used in support of independent mobility? Innovative car sharing models, mobility flat rates and apps matching this way of life are items on our task list.

At Gehl we believe that mobility is about choice.  While we more actively support non-motorized transport, we appreciate the opportunity to work with car makers like Audi, who recognize that in many parts of the world, people will still choose owning a vehicle, despite the statistics in the US shown above.  We believe that working constructively together across disciplines to ensure this desire doesn’t conflict with creating good cities for people is what good urbanism is all about.

Many modern societies are addicted to speed.  A hurry virus has taken over our lives.  Time pressure is now a serious health issue, linked with stress, depression, lack of physical activity and obesity.  We eat fast food to save time, yet still don’t have enough time for regular exercise.

A common response to time pressure is to go faster, particularly as motorists.  Yet a reliance on cars as a fast mode of transport has literally stolen our money, time and health.  The more we rely on ‘time-saving’ machines such as cars, the more time we lose.  The following anecdote illustrates this paradox.

Imagine you live in a village in the 18th century, where your job each day is to collect a bucket of water from the river.  This takes an hour each day.  To ‘save time’ you build a machine to fetch the water.  However, to make the machine work, you need to spend two hours winding up a spring. 

In modern cities, the equivalent for comparisons sake of ‘winding up the spring’ is the time we spend at work earning the money to pay for all our transport costs.  For pedestrians, this time is virtually nil.  For cyclists it is minimal.  For car drivers, the time spent earning the money to pay for all the costs of cars is usually much greater than the time spent driving.  As Ivan Illich explained in Energy and Equity (1974), the typical American driver devotes 1,600 hours to their car, to travel 7,500 miles.  That’s less than 5 miles per hour.  As speed increases, so does the cost.  When we drive faster to save time, the few seconds we save will cost us much more than that in the time needed to pay for the extra fuel, wear and tear on the car, and stress on ourselves.  Paradoxically, slowing down will reduce time pressure, which itself is a major benefit for our health.

In cities where the active modes of transport are the main modes, people spend less time travelling than in cities where cars are the dominant form of travel.  This is not only because bicycles can be faster than cars in congested traffic.  Even when people travel faster in cars than on trams or bicycles, this speed is not used to save time.  Instead the increased speed leads to longer travel distances as the city spreads out and as local shops, schools and post offices close.  Car-dominated cities pay for their higher speeds with more time spent travelling.  Attempts to boost car speeds are futile, as increased speed leads to higher costs (e.g. in new roads) which in turn requires more time to earn the money to pay for these costs.

Over the long term, a switch from cars to active modes of transport will save huge amounts of money and time, for both individuals and cities.  By choosing not to own a car, an average income earner could have a shorter work week, or retire 10 to 15 years earlier.  Through more walking, cycling and use of public transport, years of active healthy life are also extended.

Read more:

Tranter, P. 2010, Speed kills: The complex links between transport, lack of time and urban health, Journal of Urban Health, 87(2), 155-165.

Tranter, P. 2012, Effective speed:  Cycling because it’s “faster”, Chapter 4 in Pucher, J. and Buehler, R. (Eds) City Cycling, MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.


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