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The 10 principles for sustainable transport at the Our Cities Ourselves exhibition at the AIA in New York City

“Our Cities, Ourselves”, a traveling exhibition about the future of urban areas, opened February 2nd in Mexico City and in Rio de Janeiro. The exhibition builds on “10 Principles for Transportation in Urban Life” created by the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP) in consultation with Gehl Architects.

In Mexico City the exhibit will include lectures from Jan GehlGehl Architects, and in Rio de Janeiro David Sim of Gehl Architects will be speaking.

Read more here.

An ordinary day on a street in Chennai.

Being a pedestrian on the streets of Chennai, India, is not the easiest of things. On the third day of the Public Life Public Space workshop, that Gehl Architects is giving to ITDP and Chennai City Connect, the topic of Public Space was on the agenda. Detailed investigations and documentations of the public life and how it unfolds were the focus and the workshop participants were on the streets studying these issues.

Lars Gemzøe, Gehl Architects, explaining how to study public space

To see for yourself how challenging it is to be a pedestrian in Chennai take a look at this little film from Sir Thyagaraya Road:

Second part of the third workshop day was the introduction to the volunteers, who are going to help carry out the Public Life Public Space survey over the next three days. Gehl Architects, ITDP and Chennai City Connect workshop participants and volunteers, who come from four different architecture schools in Chennai, met at Chennai City Connect offices for the briefing.

Architects and architecture students being briefed before they hit the streets to carry out the very first Public Life Public Space survey in India

Doing a Public Life Public Space survey requires a tremendous amount of preparations and planning

...but the whole thing is also a lot of fun - Mahesh Radhakrishnan, MOAD, and Sia Kirknæs, Gehl Architects in the middle of planning the PLPS survey activities

Mahesh Radhakrishnan briefing students on the PLPS survey

Sia Kirknæs, Gehl Architects, along with Mahesh Radhakrishnan, instructing students on the PLPS survey

And here is the plan. The PLPS survey will be carried out over the next three days - more on this to follow.

And take a look at the Public Space Survey Manual developed by Gehl Architects:

Ready to count!

Today was day two of the Public Life Public Space survey workshop carried out by Gehl Architects for ITDP, Institute for Transport and Development Policy, and Chennai City Connect in Chennai. The morning started with an introduction by the three Gehl Architects staff – Sia Kirknæs, Lars Gemzøe and Henning Thomsen – to prepare the workshop participants for the first excercises dealing with counting public life.

Lars Gemzøe, Gehl Architects, introducing the theme of the day: counting pedestrians.

Sia Kirknæs, Gehl Architects, explaining some of the challenges faced when counting pedestrians

Counting seems like an achievable task. But to be succesful the public life part of the Public Life Public Space survey requires substantial preparation and planning – getting to know the city and the survey area, choosing the proper locations, time of week and day, and actual position in the streets surveyed. But it also requires the ability to make swift decisions and to be focused and consistent. These and many more skills were trained in todays workshop, where the participants themselves tried to count pedestrians and to note down the basic variables of age and gender – which for the age part can be as challenging as counting pedestrians itself can turn out to be for the unprepared and untrained.

Pedestrian #1 - the counting has begun!

Keeping calm and focused and keeping count!

Comparing counts - but why did we not get to the same result? Counting is not the easiest of tasks it turns out.

Discussing discrepancies and sharing solutions.

Sampling pedestrians age and gender - focus is required, when both genders walk by at the same time in opposite directions and all the data needs to go down on paper!

Surveying staying activities

Comparing notes

 

Ranganathan St, T-Nagar, Chennai, India

Part of any Public Life Public Space survey – the core city study method deviced by Jan Gehl et. alli. – is counting people. This may seem a daring endeavour in a country like India, soon to be the most populous nation in the world. But even around busy streets such as Ranganathan Street in the heart of the Chennai shopping area, T-Nagar, this is an integral part of understanding how this part of the city is working. In this case, the counting of people will make it possible to balance the counting of cars and vehicles already performed by the city in their quest to secure more road space – because maybe more road space is actually needed, but for people, not for cars.

The meeting of Ranganathan Street and South Usman Road, T-Nagar, Chennai, India

Gehl Architects are back in Chennai, India, at the request of ITDP, Institute for Transport and Development Policy, to carry out a Public Life Public Space Survey workshop. The aim is to enable the staff of ITDP and of their Chennai partner, Chennai City Connect, to carry out studies of the public spaces and the public life in Chennai, but also in other Indian cities. The workshop will continue the rest of the week and involve both workshops, on-ground excercises as well as two actual survey days.

The workshop participants from ITDP India and Chennai City Connect together with Gehl Architects staff, Henning Thomsen, Sia Kirknæs and Lars Gemzøe

...and Balchand, who took the picture of the rest of us!

Crossing the street from one workshop venue to the other can be a daring endevour in Chennai

Lars Gemzøe, Gehl Architects, sharing four decades of Public Life Public Space research in Copenhagen with the Indian workshop participants

Sia Kirknæs, Gehl Architects, explaining the results from the Public Life Public Space Survey on Sydney to illustrate the data that can be brought forward in such studies

The Times of India reporting about the weather conditions on our first workshop day - good thing the actual survey didn't take place yesterday!

Street scene, Chennai

The spirit of ’Let’s do it’ emanates from all the decisionmakers, Jeff Risom and I have met and made presentations to during our 10 day long trip to India.

Beforehand I had been told by my good Indian friend, architect Sanjay Prakash, that Indian city and government officials were hard to impress. And certainly Mr. Asheesh Sharma, the municipal commissioner (IAS) of the Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation, Maharashtra,  seemed less than impressed during my whole presentation on 21st century housing based on the best practice case of Bo01 in Malmö. And yet, his first reaction afterwards were the words: “How can we take this forward?”

Left to right: Henning Thomsen, Gehl Architects, mayor of Chennai M. Subramanian, Jeff Risom, Gehl Architects, and Rajesh Lakhoni, Chennai City Corporation Commissioner

Jeff and I receiving gifts from Chennai mayor Subramanian

The same happened in Chennai (former Madras) some days earlier. Initiated with the playing of the Tamil Nadu state anthem, Jeff and I gave a presentation on Copenhagen cycling best practice to the mayor of this 8 million people city, Mr. M. Subramanian, the City Corporation Commissioner, Mr. Rajesh Lakhoni, and a host of city councillors. After our presentation the very lively and empathic mayor gave a talk (in tamil) about his reflections on cycling in Chennai and referring to his own trips to Europe, where he had had the opportunity first hand to witness the potential of cycling in cities, he boldly stated, that Chennai would have its first dedicated cycle tracks in nothing less than 20 days.

Audience at the Gehl Architects lecture at Anna University, School of Architecture and Planning, which included professor Dinesh Mohan from the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi as well as professor and dean of the Department of Architecture, Anna University, Dr. Suresh Kuppuswamy.

Check out some of the news clips on Gehl Architects visit to Chennai:

The Hindu

New India Press

The Times of India

ITDP India staff working in their office in Pimpri

Gehl Architects are visiting India on request of the Institute for Transport and Development Policy (ITDP). In the case of Chennai also Chennai City Connect, a Chennai based non-profit organization, have been responsible for the invitation and for the many presentations and meetings, we have been part of while in Chennai.

See below a list of the activities we have been performing since entering India on the 17th august:

17th august: Meeting with professor Dinesh Mohan and M. Muthaia on Chennai history and urban development in India

17th august: Lecture at Anna University, School of Architecture and Planning

18th august: Presentation to the Tamil Nadu Urban Development Foundation (TNUDF)

19th august: Presentation to the Chennai Metro Rail Limited

20th august: Lecture for the Mayor M. Subramanian, the City Corporation Commissioner, Mr. Rajesh Lakhoni, and city councillors

20th august: Presentation to the Chief Secretary, Tamil Nadu State, Mr. K. Sripathy

20th august: Lecture for Executive Committee members of Chennai City Connect and Marg representatives at the Sheraton, sponsored by Marg Limited

21st august: Workshop with Tamil Nadu Urban Development Foundation (TNUDF) and Jones Lang LaSalle on pedestrianisation of T. Nagar

23rd august: Presentation to the Chief Commissioner Asheesh Sharma, of the Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC), Maharashtra and the CEO Suhas Diwase, Pimpri Chinchwad New Town Development Authority (PCNTDA) and other city officials

23rd august: Lecture to ITDP staff at local office in Pimpri

24th august: Two presentations at seminar with delegates from Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC), Pimpri Chinchwad New Town Development Authority (PCNTDA), builders, architects and planners

Street in the main shopping area of Chennai, T. Nagar, after rainfall.

The reception of the thoughts and practices we have shown in all of these lectures and presentations has been very welcoming. The notion of people-friendly development and the need for the introduction of new planning principles to succeed the traditional modernistic planning principles is warmly welcomed by the Indians.

At the same time we on our side have to acknowledge that the urban context, societal circumstances and even the economic structures are indeed very different from the context, circumstances and structures, we rely on when dealing with cities in both Denmark, Europe and most anywhere else. India seems to be a case of its own.

Street scene, Chennai

The little we have seen granted, we still are left with an impression of a country and of cities where growth is staggering, be it in numbers of people, numbers of vehicles and even kind and type of vehicles, and be it in pressure on the land and on its ressources, and on the structures that try to keep this extraordinary country together.

Slum settlements in front of new housing development in Pimpri

Even understanding the importance and scale of the so-called informal economy is mindblowing to a person coming from the US, as Jeff, and from Denmark, as myself. Poverty, as we have witnessed in slum developments in both Chennai and Pimpri, is evident. The relation of the informal economy and the informal settlements to the larger urban context is, to say the least, complicated. That the lifestyles of some, cannot be maintained without the help of cheap labour supplied by the others, the slumdwellers, is openly accepted. But it is also evidently hard to deal with for planners as well as politicians and city officials when redeveloping existing cities or even planning and building new cities and towns.

Informal economy - street vendors in the main shopping area in Chennai, T. Nagar

Informal economy - hawkers to the left and shops to the right co-existing and both relying on the business that the other brings to a section of the sidewalk

During our visit we have been discussing pedestrianization, improving conditions for cyclists and implementation of better cycling infrastructure as well as raising awareness on cycling as a healthy, sustainable and effective mobility form, and also how to develop people-friendly housing developments for the 21st century.

New urban development around a BRT streetcorridor in Pimpri - these streetcorridors will be between 45 and 75 meters wide!

Recycling garbage forms an integrated part of the informal economy and of the slum settlements

And also during our visit we have been exposed to many issues that seem to be particular for the growing megacities of the developing world, issues that call for their own context-based solutions to be developed and where the example of Copenhagen as a livable city, sometimes falls short of the realities that people are dealing with in a society such as the Indian. Thus even if we think we still have a point in pushing the issue of a more people-friendly planning in a context such as India, we must also make it a point to learn more about the megacity context in order to find ways in which the principles of people-friendly planning become more applicable in for example an Indian context.

Traffic - It is all over the place!!!

That said, I must say that the visit in general and the people in particular have been an extraordinary experience. The entrepreneurial, warm-hearted and extremely humoristic Indians have been a joy to get to know.

A special thanks for organizing the whole trip and for taking such good care of us goes to Shreya Gadepalli and the staff of ITDP India, that we have met, as well as to Raj Cherubal and Balchand Parayath of Chennai City Connect.

Children in the streets of a low-income housing development in Pimpri

Not only the food was hot!

We were kept busy! Jeff adjusting slideshows in the cab between presentations

Our ride to todays presentation for the Chennai Metro Authority - four of us were on board along with the driver!

On our trip to Chennai for Gehl Architects, Jeff Risom and myself, are trying out various forms of transportation. Today we got to go both in bus as well as in auto rickshaw. Joining us on these trips were Shreya Gadepalli, senior program director for ITDP India, and Chris Kost, technical director, ITDP India.

All forms of transportation through the streets of Chennai are an adventure. The traffic of Chennai, which at first seems to be utter chaos has a deep-felt and respectful structure to it along with the fact that speeds, due to the many different modes of transportation that share the road, is not excessively high. Accidents of course occur, but the adventure of riding the waves of Chennai traffic up until now have been if not a pleasant experience then at least a learning experience of a positive kind.

Check out this film that gives you a little flavour of what driving in auto rickshaws in Chennai, India, is like.

For the first time Gehl Architects are venturing into India, the worlds second most populated country (soon to be the worlds most populated country) with now already more than 1 billion people. Monday 16th August, Jeff Risom and myself, are travelling to Chennai (former Madras) on the east coast of southern India and later on in the week, we move on to Pune, a couple of hours inland from Mumbai.

Gehl Architects have signed up to assist ITDP (Institute for Transportation & Development Policy) in some of their work in India. This work is part of a larger collaboration between Gehl Architects and ITDP, that also involves contributions in China, Brazil and Mexico. Recently Gehl Architects also contributed to the ITDP exhibition in New York in connection with the celebration of ITDP’s 25th anniversairy. Check out more about this and the booklet, Our Cities Ourselves, that was created in collaboration between ITDP and Gehl Architects here.

Founded in 1985, ITDP has become a leading organization in the promotion of environmentally sustainable and equitable transportation policies and projects worldwide. ITDP was created by sustainable transport advocates in the U.S. to counteract the export to developing countries of costly and environmentally damaging models of dependence on the private automobile.

In its first ten years, ITDP successfully advocated for the redirection of lending activity by the World Bank and other multi-lateral institutions away from an exclusive focus on road projects and toward more multi-modal transport solutions. In more recent years, we have focused on working with municipalities and non-governmental organizations in developing countries to implement projects that show how air pollution, carbon emissions, traffic congestion and accidents can be reduced, or how the basic mobility of the poor can be improved.

Jeff and I are hoping to keep you posted on the trip and our experiences on this blog, so look forward to more blogposts on Gehl going India.

Top image by India 8, originally uploaded by ojsmadgett.

The 10 principles for sustainable transport at the Our Cities Ourselves exhibition at the AIA in New York City (Photo: Samuel Lahoz, for ITDP)

The Institute of Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP) celebrates its 25th anniversary this year with an ambitious new exhibition at the Center for Architecture, in New York. As part of the celebration Gehl Architects together with ITDP have published a new publication, “Our Cities Ourselves: 10 Principles for Transport in Urban Life”. David Sim, Jeff Risom, Ewa Westermark, Henning Thomsen and Ola Gustafsson together with Jan Gehl, all from Gehl Architects, have worked on the publication.

Here is what US Politics writes about the new publication:

In a publication released today (24 June), visionary urbanist Jan Gehl and Walter Hook, Executive Director of the Institute of Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP), together set out ten keys to building successful cities. “Our Cities Ourselves: 10 Principles for Transport in Urban Life” shows how cities from New York to Nairobi can meet the challenges of rapid population growth and climate change while improving their competitiveness.

In a concise, vibrant and accessible format, the booklet promises to be a “must read” for all those involved in city design and urban planning, and forms the backbone of the ITDP exhibition “Our Cities Ourselves,” which opens on June 24 at New York’s Center for Architecture, before traveling to China,Brazil, Mexico and beyond.

“Cities of the twenty-first century should be lively cities, safe cities, sustainable cities and healthy cities,” says Jan Gehl. “All of these qualities can be achieved if we embrace these ten principles, which means putting people first.”

Cities face massive population growth, particularly in the developing world. By 2030, 60 percent of the world’s population, or 5 billion people, will live in cities. The transportation sector currently accounts for around a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions, a growing proportion derived largely from cars and trucks.

From the exhibition Our Cities Ourselves, ITDP 25th anniversary, at the AIA in New York City (Photo: Samuel Lahoz for ITDP)

Without a significant move away from car-dependent suburbanization to pedestrian-friendly and public transit-oriented urban planning, cities will face growing difficulties financing the necessary infrastructure. As a result of inaction, preventing the two-degree rise in global warming that threatens cataclysmic climate change will be nearly impossible.

“When I was growing up, we used to think that in the future we would all be traveling around on monorails, or in flying cars. In cities with 25 million people, this sort of thing just isn’t workable,” saysWalter Hook, Executive Director of ITDP. “Now, our dreams are full of elegant pedestrian promenades along waterfronts alive with fountains and children playing, of great bike paths connecting to public squares alive with cafes, musicians, and performance art.”

Some cities are waking up to this reality, and changing direction. “Our Cities Ourselves: 10 Principles for Transport in Urban Life” showcases examples of cities reaping the benefits of integrating urban planning and design that gives priority to pedestrians and transit. It is designed as a guide to cities and countries wishing to make their cities more competitive and livable, while helping to solve the problem of climate change.

“We are thrilled to launch the ‘Our Cities Ourselves’ global program at the Center, but also to see this important booklet arrive. The principles outlined–and beautifully so–offer a promising future for New York and other growing cities,” says Rick Bell, FAIA, Executive Director of the Center for Architecture and the American Institute of Architects’ New York Chapter. “I think I speak for the architects of New York when I say we look forward to realizing these principles in our designs.”

What are the ten principles of sustainable transport?

  1. Walk the walk: Create great pedestrian environments.
  2. Powered by people: Create a great environment for bicycles and other non-motorized vehicles.
  3. Get on the bus: Provide great, cost-effective public transport.
  4. Cruise control: Provide access for clean passenger vehicles at safe speeds and in significantly reduced numbers.
  5. Deliver the goods: Service the city in the cleanest and safest manner.
  6. Mix it up: Mix people and activities, buildings and spaces.
  7. Fill it in: Build dense, people and transit oriented urban districts that are desirable.
  8. Get real: Preserve and enhance the local, natural, cultural, social and historical assets.
  9. Connect the blocks: Make walking trips more direct, interesting and productive with small-size, permeable buildings and blocks.
  10. Make it last: Build for the long term. Sustainable cities bridge generations. They are memorable, malleable, built from quality materials, and well maintained.

Read more about the exhibition and the publication on ‘A daily dose of Architecture‘, ‘Sustainable Cities Collective‘, ‘Time Out New York‘, ‘WNYC‘, and visit the exhibition website.

And watch President Clintons special message to ITDP:

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