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Gehl Architects in collaboration with 8-80 Cities have just completed a ‘Mobility Playbook’ for the City of Red Deer, Canada. Red Deer is a city of around 100,000 people located in the Petroleum Valley between Calgary and Edmonton. It will double in size in the next 18 years. The playbook sets out moves to harness this growth towards sustainable mobility and was unanimously approved for community consultation by the City Council. We’ve found the job to be a microcosm of the challenges facing many North-American Cities. 

See the video the city made and read the report here.

We are excited to learn about the new statistics for Nørrebrogade, the corridor in central Copenhagen, that has been undergoing a process of mobility rethinking since 2008.

Car traffic has been reduced by 60%, from 15.000 cars to 6.000 cars per day, the number of cyclists using the corridor has increased by 20% to 36.000 cyclists daily. Also 60% more pedestrians are using the bridge connecting the corridor with the inner city area.

We are happy that the tools to measure and analyze urban behavior are increasingly being used by municipalities to gather important data about the present conditions and future development and usability of the urban realm. Gathering new knowledge about how the city is used can be a strong tool in inciting debate around the pros and cons of specific urban space changes and can be especially effective when used in public involvement processes.

Other positive changes mentioned in the article include the reduction of the noise level, which has been reduced by half to what it was in 2008, and the 45% reduction of the number of traffic accidents. Learn more here (in Danish).

Thirty people from the office went to the opening and saw the exhibit for the first time together

My first book Life Between Buildings was published 41 years ago.  Yet today in 2012 the book, and people oriented planning principles embodied in it continues to be much in demand.  I’m delighted and humbled by the staying power of these planning principles which is most recently exemplified by the great international interest in my latest book Cities for People. Already by 2012 this book will be published in 10 languages and a number of new versions are lined up for 2013.

Yet despite this praise and continued interest in the people oriented planning principles, places, districts and entire cities continue to be developed without any reference to principles along these lines.  This is not an issue of negligence, but of neglect. For over the past 50 years, none of those entrusted with building cities – neither architects, planners nor engineers – have been trained to focus  on looking after the needs of people.  The growing interest in my work from numerous professions and disciplines attests to the fact that this is thankfully changing.  There appears to be a genuine and powerful trend of politicians, technocrats and citizens alike beginning to demand that Cities become more liveable, safer,  healthier, and indeed more sustainable.

It is a great joy for me to see these timeless principles for caring for the life in the cities presented in a new format (animated film) and in a new context joining several Scandinavian colleagues at the New Nordic Architecture Exhibit at Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, North of Copenhagen.  The principles illustrated at Louisiana are very much the same today as they were many years ago. People are still people.

The film is in-the-round and divided into three sections, life, mobility and scale

It is equally a joy for me to see Gehl Architects continue to evolve these guiding core values and principles to many different types of projects and scales of intervention.  Working with partners around the world, this young, energetic and stubbornly optimistic team work to tailor and contextualize design, planning and research that builds upon the foundation established during the many years of research and dialogues.  This team is actively engaging in dialogue around the world with colleagues, clients and collaborators to add layers of meaning and new possibilities for application of these core values.  In doing so, Gehl Architects, as the other design practices featured in the Loisianna exhibit, continue to build upon a wider Nordic tradition for architecture and design that is rooted in a fundamental care and appreciation for the human being.

As we progress through the 21st century, I’m confident that the continued dedication of a new generation of city makers – from economists to social scientists to architects to business owners and politicians – that care for the city from a human centered perspective of the Nordic tradition will ensure that the cities  of tomorrow will be much better for people than the cities of today.

Welcome back to Gehl Institute’s partnership with Untapped Cities in New York, looking at the impact of data, both open and collected, in the design of cities.

On March 7, New York City became the first local government to pass legislation ensuring public access to data. The passing of the bill symbolizes a political embrace of the “open” culture already underway in New York City’s “Silicon Alley.”  City agencies and non-profit organizations in New York are making new correlations between urban conditions and social phenomenon, utilizing crowdsourcing and open data, to support traditional methods of data analysis.

Open Plans, a New York-based non-profit organization with a focus on transportation and urban planning, is an example of such a progressive group. The Open Plans team builds software which enables public agencies and non-profit organizations to crowdsource input from the community. You may recognize their work with New York City’s Department of Transportation’s interactive bike station suggestion map from this past year. In its decade of existence, Open Plans developed open source projects which include OpenGeo, Streetfilms, Streetsblog, GothamSchools, Civic Commons and OpenTripPlanner. According to the non-profit, all the tools serve to facilitate open source software, information transparency and progressive transportation planning.

Recently, Open Plans co-hosted a panel at the American Planning Association (APA) Conference in Los Angeles with Denver-based firm Place Matters, highlighting the challenges to come as we navigate amidst a constant and sometimes overwhelming flow of data. Important questions loom: How do we make sense of the data? With limited resources, should companies focus on making the quality of data better or the analysis tools better?

Publicly submitted requests for bike share stations in NYC

In partnership with Open Plans, the NYC Department of Transportation (NYCDOT) has also embraced this trend towards a more “open” culture by utilizing crowd-sourced information to plan station locations for the soon-to-be-launched Citibank bike share program. Bicycle commuting has increased in the city (35% from 2007 to 2008), but there are still significant challenges associated with bike ridership, including access. The collected crowd-sourced data, submitted via an interactive map on the NYCDOT website, allowed the public to suggest bike share stations for the rollout.

To read the full article visit Untapped Cities

Last week David and I travelled to Bogotá for the second time to collaborate with the World Bank on a scoping workshop. Throughout the four-day process, we meet and worked with various secretariats, including habitat, planning and mobility on imagining the future of the ‘7a’ avenue, one of the most prominent and historic arteries of the city.

The ‘7a’ project is being lead by the Secretariat of Habitat, under the wing of their ‘Taller de la Ciudad’ or ‘City Lab’. Their aim is to revitalise parts of the city centre beginning by enhancing public life, easing movement and increasing security. The ‘Taller de la Ciudad’ has identified 15 nodes along the 7a where they plan to trial pilot projects. Later this year, they will launch an international ideas competition to help gather innovative ideas for the 15 nodes.

The ‘City Lab’ team has already begun their first pilot between the 19th and 26th streets of the ‘7a’ – cars have been re-routed and the road re-distributed to include space for pedestrians, cyclists and service vehicles. Although it is being pitched to users as a pedestrian street, it seems like the opportunity is much bigger and linked to the current mayor’s slogan – Bogotá Humana (Human Bogotá). The planned initiatives along the ‘7a’ translate into projects that are about making an already incredible and inspiring city into a place that exhilarates our senses by smartly transforming them into destinations, experiences, hubs, and magnetic centers that offer the best of city life to every citizen.

7a avenue pilot

Towards a human-centered Bogotá

Standing and observing the altered flows between the 19th and 26th we were struck by the lack of clarity and conflict between users despite the delineated spaces. There appeared to be very little natural propensity to follow the painted lanes and no alliance between pedestrians and cyclists. It left us wondering how Bogotanos can be moved towards and inspired to respond to something that is entirely new? Does this type of lane segregation and order suit the culture? It seems like an incredible opportunity for both the secretariats and the citizens to investitage city-goer behaviour and to trial innovative urban solutions.

The exponential and ambitious transformations of Bogotá, such as Transmilenio BRT program and associated ‘hardware’ restructuring projects by Enrique Peñalosa, socially experimental and unorthodox ‘software’ approach by Antanas Mockus, have yet to be surpassed in fame or efficiency by successive administrations. These projects were, in thinking and finance a product of their time. Now it seems like a new, more dispersed and open city agenda is surfacing. One in which bottom up processes of small change that inspire participation, social connection and trust are developing, needing an understanding of the inter-play between the hard, and the soft infrastructures of the city. The pilot project shows that one size doesn’t fit all and that intelligent design must come from user and cultural understanding.

Main city centre plaza

The Swedish Transport Administration invited Helle Søholt to contribute as Key Note speaker and to take part in the panel discussion at the seminar Think Future, Strategies for the transport-system of tomorrow, in Stockholm on the 8th of November.

The Swedish Transport Minister Catharina Elmsäter- Svärd opened the seminar, but with no references to the importance of urban areas, cities, towns and villages not to say the people using daily transport systems.

This was indeed the focus of Helle’s contribution to the future thinking of transport. The need to address a micro level of planning and not just the traditional macro level. The micro level where we understand the behavior of people and make transport networks that multiplies choice and quality of life for the individual. Cities that are walkable, bikeable and have a well developed public transport system are both more sustainable and much more lively and safe as a consequence of the people moving at eyelevel in the streets.

The Seminar aimed at providing an arena for dialogue on issues of strategic and long-term importance related to the further use and development of the Swedish transport system. One of several important policy tools to promote sustainable economic growth, at a time when global structural change of demography, economy and trade increases. The necessity of serious considerations to energy and climate change constraints where considered in the seminar.

Trafikverket is a new administration, comprising all modes of transport, and with the brave ambition of gaining a wider identity as not only contributing to the building of the society but a pro-active ”society developer”.

As the first national authority merging transport silos, we hope at Gehl Architects to see a more integrated thinking and approach also to city building and the need of people.

The discussions at the seminar were to serve as strategic input to the national transport policy-making process and influence future strategies and action plans in the National Assembly, the Ministries and the Administrations.

We are looking forward to see the results of integrated thinking in transport solutions contributing to improve cities for people in Sweden.

Thanks to an unusual fun day of transport discussions in Stockholm on old and new paradigms.

Helle Søholt was Key Note speaker at Think Future, Strategies for the transport-system of tomorrow, in Stockholm.

The following panel discussion at the seminar.

People first transportation in the 21st century?

Helle as part of a distinguished panel discussing Meeting People's Needs in Policy in Planning

As part of the OECD, the International Transport Forum’s annual Summit is the place for a vibrant exchange of ideas about recent developments and the future of transport. As the unique global platform that brings together Ministers, decision-makers, experts and practitioners from around the world and from all modes of transport, the International Transport Forum has established itself as the leading global mobility event.

This year, the focus of debate is “Transport for Society”. It has been impressive to hear so many ministers of Transport, academics, and practitioners talk about prioritizing the needs of people in transport planning.   It is also encouraging to hear more and more panelists and speakers talk about the need to focus on integrating land use planning and human scale urban design together with complex transport networks.

It is exactly these issues that Founding Partner at Gehl Architects, Helle Søholt focused on in the two panels that she participated in during the Forum.  In both  Keeping it Clean – Transport, Health and the Environment and Meeting People’s Needs in Policy and Planning, Helle emphasized the need to balance fast transport with slow mobility and to complement capital intensive mega projects with non-motorized mobility improvements.  Helle contributed to the esteemed panel including Gao Hongfeng, Vice Minister of Transport in China and Jeffrey Sachs, Director of The Earth Institute at Columbia University in New York.

Helle emphasized that all public transit riders and motorists begin their journey as pedestrians and therefore the transit and automobile network can only be as good as the pedestrian network that brings them to other modes of transit.

A portion of the Our Cities Ourselves Exhibit is also on display at the ITF Forum

The key is to provide dignified choice and multi-faceted options for mobility. In integrating these systems and promoting safety, comfort, convenience  in moving through the city and inviting people to meet and spend time in public spaces, we can come a long way toward making cities for people.  Yet a change of mindset still needs to occur where decision makers consider proximity as well as density, quality of experience as well as capacity, safety as well as reliability.  This is the approach of the Our Cities Ourselves campaign, developed in collaboration with ITDP and also on display at the ITF Forum.

Helle argued that we can still accommodate for motorists and public transit riders by prioritizing proximity high quality conditions for  pedestrians and cyclists.  But experience from around the world shows the converse is not true; we cannot create good environments for people by prioritizing the needs of motorists and public transport capacity alone.

Cycling in Chennai - a daring adventure.

What is cycling like around world? We chose Chennai in India as our first stop on Gehl Architects new adventure: Cycling in Cities. Take a look at this trip around T-Nagar and Panagal Park, the major shopping area, in Chennai. Henning Thomsen of Gehl Architects is wearing the helmetcam on this trip.

Please allow the film to load.

Henning Thomsen, Gehl Architects, in Chennai on Mahesh Radhakrishnan's bicycle, and wearing the helmet cam.

Also check some of our pictures from the trip:

The famous Curitiba’s Public Transportation System - Curitiba, Brazil

Curitiba, Brazil, is the birthplace of bus rapid transit, the high-capacity urban public transportation system developed under the leadership of former city mayor Jaime Lerner. The ensuing transit-oriented development (TOD) underscored the importance of organizing urban areas around transport corridors and led Curitiba to be hallmarked as the most successful example of TOD.

Check out EMBARQs film on Curitiba:

We have known about it for years, but now The Danish Federation of Cyclist together with Megafon have delieverd the proof: Cyclists are the happiest people in traffic. The amount of happiness, that cyclists associate with their mode of transportation by far surpasses that of both buspassengers, trainpassengers and car drivers.

As for anger, cyclists have the lowest feeling of anger associated with their mode of transportation, again compared to that of people choosing bus, train or private car for their transportation.

This result underlines the multiple positive benefits of cycling, that has to do with both health, sustainability, safety, livability and happiness. All that through promoting cycling and making it more attractive for more people to chose the cycle as their mode of transportation in the city.

Read more about the results of this survey here. (In Danish only).

Below excerpts from the DCF homepage.

To which extent do you associate the feeling of happiness with your choice of transportation?

To which extent do you associate the feeling of well-being with your choice of transportation?

To which extent do you associate the feeling of anger with your choice of transportation?

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