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On June 21, 2010, the first day of the Velo City conference, city representatives and bicycling advocates from multiple countries – including Canada, Mexico, Australia, China, Turkey and the United States – met at the office of Gehl Architects to investigate how cycling is a means to contribute to create a City for People (please find the presentations from the workshop at the bottom of this post).  The multi-disciplinary background of the attendees came together across nationalities to share experiences and best practice in terms of promoting cycling, as well as ways to most effectively shift advocacy in order to successfully gain ridership and city support, were discussed amongst the group.

Yvonne Bambrick and Andy Thornley mingling before the workshop began

The discussion was kicked-off by Senior staff at Gehl  Architects – David Sim, Lin Skaufel, Jeff Risom and Gil Penalosa – that stressed the importance of consideration of the human scale and experience of mobility in urban planning, as well as strategies for promoting bicycle infrastructure.

David Sim kicks things off with a presentation about the human dimension in creating bikable and livable cities

A key topic of discussion was the sense of urgency with which the movement for cycling should be approached.  After hearing a presentation by Gil Penalosa encouraging the stakeholders present to take action quickly, many agreed that the time has come to “step up” the movement.  City officials, private interests, and the general public must be pushed through action– encouraging words and good ideas are not enough to promote effective change.  A key aspect of this “push” is the way in which bicycling is perceived by the public.  The idea that cycling is a counterculture movement, an activity pursued only by isolated groups such as teenagers, alternative minds, and environmentalists – must be changed, especially in nations such as the U.S. and Canada.  In order to do so, marketing of bicycle culture should promote its universality, sex appeal, practical advantages, and social aspects.  From an early age, members of the public should feel individually empowered to ride – this can perhaps be achieved by rebranding cycling as a positive experience associated with personal mobility rather than larger environmental or political concerns.  Attendees agreed that a balance must be struck between supply and demand driven change – infrastructure such as bicycle lanes must be better incorporated into cities, while at the same time, public attitudes towards cycling must become more positive, perhaps reconciling the notion of the automobile as a status symbol.

Jan Gehl poses after his presentation with Quanle Huang and Manying Hu

The last words of the workshop were given by Jan Gehl.  Bringing the discussion back to the perspective of the experience of the individual within the city, he stressed the importance of humanistic urban planning.  Gehl stressed that a key component of high- quality urban environments is the ease, independence, and comfort with which people can move through the city.  As the room broke out into applause, it was clear that a general agreement had been reached:  Creating Cities for People is strongly supported by the mobility, personal freedom, and societal benefits that bicycling affords.

Here are the presentations from the workshop:

Gil Penalosa speaking at the Velo City Global 2010 conference in Copenhagen

The message from this mornings pleanary speaker, Gil Penalosa, was clear: The world needs more Janett Sadik-Khans; the world needs more ‘doers’!

The cycling movement needs more doers to make the change that the ever-growing cities of this world are facing, was the fundamental message, Gil Penalosa tried to bring home on the audience. Judging by the massive applause he received after his talk it seemed as if he had made his case heard

Gil Penalosa, stepping in for his brother, Enrique, former mayor of Bogota, who had not been allowed to enter Denmark at the airport, is the former comissioner for parks and roads in Bogota, and is now heading the 8-80 Cities that he also founded. He is also a senior consultant to Gehl Architects, collaborating with Gehl Architects on several projects in South America.

He gave a tour-de-force talk about the need to change the way we think about cities. Quality of life for all citizens, should be top of the agenda in cities, not simply the convenience and well-being of cars and motorists.

Gil Penalosa: "Quality of life for all should be at the heart of our ambition."

“Streets are the most valuable space in any city,” Gil Penalosa stated, and said that the issue of streets is not a technical issue. If we want better cities, the issue is political. The will needed to transform our cities to cities for people, is political will. He took the audience on a tour of good examples from all around the world, showing how cities like Copenhagen, Odense, Bogota, New York and Paris have and are transforming themselves to make the city a place for all and places of quality, where quality of life is at the heart of any decision being made about the public realm.

“The general interest must prevail over the interests of the individual,” Gil Penalosa stated, and therefore politicians and administrators must show courage and will and determination, to make the changes that cities need to see coming. Referring to the recent swift changes in the streets of New York, administered by the Department of Transportation of New York City, under the leadership of Commissioner Janett Sadik-Khan, and carried out for fairly little money and with the main tool being painting of the streets to make cycling and walking more visible in the cityscape, Gil Penalosa said: “It is not a question about money! It is a question about will! Therefore the world needs more Janett Sadik-Khan’s, who is a doer.”

Gil Penalosa: "The world needs more doers!"

Gil Penalosa: "Cycling nations are more egalitarian nations."

Open house at Gehl Architects during Velo City Global2010 in Copenhagen

On the evening of the first day of the Velo City Global 2010 conference Gehl Architects hosted an open house for both old and new friends. More than 150 people stopped by for a drink and for networking with the many cycling advocates present.

Andy Clark, Gil Penalosa and Ida Auken

Andy Clark and Helle Søholt

In the middle: Karen Overton and Klaus Bondam

Gil Penalosa, Sibyl from Istanbul, Lars Mortensen and Janette Sadik-Khan

Open house at Gehl Architects

Faizan Jamed and Louise Kielgast

Helle Søholt and Jon Orcutt

Jan Gehl and Lawrence Man

Andy Clark and Jan Gehl

Antonio Suarez and David Sim

Louise Didriksson, Louise Grassov and Rikke Sode

Andy Clark and Jan Gehl

Open house at Gehl Architects

Open house at Gehl Architects

Open house at Gehl Architects

Open house at Gehl Architects

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