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(PARK)ing Day excercise in the courtyard below Gehl Architects office, Copenhagen.

The staff of Gehl Architects took a premature stab at (PARK)ing Day 2010 today, 77 days before the actual (PARK)ing Day 2010 will take place on September 17, when two parkingspaces in the courtyard below the Gehl Architects office were taken over with tables, benches, plants and spumante.

The coup-de-parking had been orchestrated by Lin Skaufel, architect in the Studio division, and prepared the night before when planting took place. The tables were well-used already from early on in the day. Both the staff from the cycle-shop, Urania, that resides in the courtyard, and the waiters at Estate Coffee kaffebar, took great joy in the set up and used the tables throughout the morning. Also an old-danish tradition, the courtyard musicians, resurfaced when two musicians, playing the saw and the accordion, turned up. After an afternoon of discussion on cycling and the recent events of the Velo City Global 2010 conference in the office of Gehl Architects, the staff went downstairs to enjoy the sun and the fresh air and hang-out for a couple of hours after work.

Two parking spaces were overtaken by the staff of Gehl Architects

Small space, small intervention, great impact.

Spumante in the courtyard instead of parked cars.

Coup-de-parking in the courtyard below Gehl Architects office

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:

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