The speech in English given by prof. Jan Gehl on 22 October 2014 in Lublin on the occasion of Jan Gehl Year 2014 and promoting the Polish translation of his book „Cities for People”.
The following lecture shows why prof. Jan Gehl is not just one of global „mentors” travelling around the world and teaching how to improve it, invited by municipalities and conferences. Jan Gehl witnessed the changes he talks about. His life is a part of them. If he speaks about two paradigms of city planning being in force in the 20th century (modernism and car invasion) it means he started from them himself. If he speaks about the third parydigm (city planning based on studying human spacial needs), it means he was one of those who made this paradigm and introduced it for 40 years in Copenhagen, against prevailing tendencies. When he says that the current situation is favourable fot this paradigm, he does not present only beautiful ideas but also profitable implementation and ecourages us to act now.
The original transcription of the speech in English has been shortened and edited for better reading with interesting quotations marked out. Pictures come from Jan Gehl’s presentation. Time refences come from its recording published on YouTube (below) each of them being a link that plays the film from the indicated moment. They are also in one of the comments to the film on YT.
Jan Gehl visited Lublin on 22-24.10.2014. He was invited by Municipality, thanks to Forum for Culture of Space at the „Grodzka Gate – NN Theatre” Centre, the organizer of Year of Jan Gehl, for the opening of the project „City for People. Lublin Standards of Pedestrian Infrastructure” by tu obok foundation. The visit included:
- 22.10.2014 Wednesday: a lecture for 800 people in the Hall of Law and Administration Faculty at Marie Curie-Skłodowska University (UMCS) with a live transmission to another hall
- 23.10.2014 Thursday: workshops for Municipality of Lublin, a walk through the city and a meeting with Lublin city activists from Forum for Space Culture
- 24.10.2014 Friday: the opening of „City for People” project at the front of Lublin City Hall; a happening „The first step to the city for people”.
Transcrioption – Emilia Olszewska, Marcin Skrzypek
Poster advertising the lecture – Anna Tarłowska
Logo of Jan Gehl’s Year – Jan Kamiński
Marcin Skrzypek – contact
Transcript of the lecture
00:00:24 – Opening, greeting
Thank you, Lublin. Before I came I even did not realise that there were so many inhabitants in Lublin and you have come, all of you. I’m very honoured and thankful.
00:00:58 – About the Polish version of „Cities for People”
We are here because this book has now been published in Polish and I know that there are some heaps out there and I promise to sign all of them until midnight if you like. And now it is in Polish and I’m very proud and happy about that.
And also, I should say that is not a commercial project. Because throughout all my life I’ve had this principle, that if we have knowledge which is useful, it is for mankind. So I have not personally any economic interest in this book, I’d give it for free.
00:01:49 – The main point of the book: cities want to be livabile but to achieve that we need to restore out knowledge about the quality of the „little scale”, human scale, which we lost during the last 50 years of car traffic and modernism paradygmes in city planning
I shall tell today that in the 21. century the cities are competing on livability, they’re competing on quality. We have this global world and all the information is rushing around. And we know everything about where there are nice, good cities, where the people, the citizens are having a good time. And that is very important for where you’re settled and where the investments go where conferences go, where the tourists go where everything is organized.
In the 21st century the cities are competing on livability and quality. My point is that people-oriented city planning is a very efficient strategy towards having a more livable city which should be better for the people.
00:02:41 – „My life in a short version” in the contexts of 20th c. trends in city planning and architecture
I shall start telling you about my life in the short version. I graduated as an architect in 1960 and now I can see, looking back, that was the worst period of city planning ever. We were trained to do cities standing over models like this. Bingo! A nice city.
The big hero of that time was the modernists. They became extremely influential. And the key modernist was Le Corbusier with his main idea: „Cities are no good, no more. No more streets, no more public spaces. Now we shall build free-standing buildings, standing on grass.” Grass is better than a city. I rushed out of university to do all these fabulous new things.
Then I married a psychologist. We started to have very interesting discussions in the house. Young architects, young psychologists. And all the time the psychologists said: „Why are you architects not interested in people? Why don’t you study how people use the buildings you do? What do you learn at school of architecture about people?” And we would say: „We were very concerned with people and we thought that the aesthetics was one of the major things people would be dreaming of in the night”. And they said: „You know this little about people”.
That was very tough for a young architect. But it made me think about that there was a point here. That made me go straight back to school of architecture were I spent the next 40 years doing research about how the built form influences the life of people.
00:05:20 – A story about why architects are obssessed with the form and why architecture is in fact the happy interaction between form and life
At one conference in England an architecture critic took up a bottle as a prop and said „I feel sorry for you, architects, because your mean of communication as architects is a still photo and a two dimensional drawing. By doing this, by communicating all these pictures on front pages of magazines you increasingly get more and more obsessed with the form.
But it this is not architecture – this is sculpture. Architecture is the happy interaction between form and life.” While it is very easy to communicate form and to study form, it is considerably more complicated to study life and especially complicated to study the interaction between life and form.
00:06:19 – Continuation of „my life in a short version” topic
And of course that was exactly the area of research I started to do that was about „How does the form influence the life of people?”. And we found that form had extremely high influence on what happened. First, you form the cities but then they form you. Over the years much to my surprise, there was much international and national interest in this kind of people-oriented city planning. And much to my surprise, I saw my puny little books be spread all over the world. […] And I’am also very pround, that all my books had been translated into Chinese […] but the great sorrow for me is that they never had time to read them over in China.
And also, at some point, later in my life, there were so many mayors and other people in politics or in developing building industry who came and said: „You can criticize you can write all these books where you say that we’re doing wrong one wrong thing after another but can’t you come and tell us what we should do instead of writing and criticizing?”
00:08:43 – How Gehl’s consulting company started followed by a research centre and writing books
And then I had to start a company with many of my students So now we have also this consulting company and much to my suprise again in just 15 years when we have been working we have seen that cities from all over the world have come rushing to say: „Can you help us to make a more livable city?” […]
Then in quite many years of my life we had in Denmark a very stinking rich foundation for the built environment. And they took an interest in this people-oriented city planning and they said: „You’re doing this people-oriented city planning? the cities are great, great area to research. Do you need any money?” And then they started to say: „How many millions do you actually need?” […]
Then we had a research centre in the university. They set out for public spaces research. And then after I started at the university, they came again and say: „Jan we would like you to sit down and write down everything you know in one book while you can still remember it.” […] So we made this book and it has now, in very few years much, again, to my surprise come out all over the world. Even in French, as you can see. It took 40 years. The French, they’re of course interested in people but not people who are not French. […]
00:12:16 – About the message in „Cites for People”: two paradigm in 20th c. city planning and a recent shift to another paradigm
I’ll tell a little bit about the message in this book. It’s very much a story about the two paradigms, the two planning paradigms which had been all dominating in the 20th century. And then, about a recent shift to another paradigm.
[…] I say around 1960, it was the time when the big change of paradigms happened. And that was also the time when I graduated […]. Before that, we had more or less traditional city planning when we built one building at a time, long streets and a lot of things were done by people in spaces for people. So like in Venice, it’s an old, traditional city. […]
00:13:28 – Car invasion and consequences: focus on solving traffic problems while overlooking the quality of pedestrian and public life taken away „slice by slice”, imperceptibly
But then came two enormous influences. The first change of paradigm was the car invasion which happened at various times. I know that in Poland it happened some 30 years later than in Denmark, Australia, America or England. […] Cheap petroleum, cheap gasoline and we had these thousands and thousands of cars
that came in and filled all the spaces in the cities. We can go out here and see how it looked like back then in late 1960s and 70s.
All energy in cities was concentrated on unsolving the traffic problems and making the cars happy. All cities at once started to have a very efficient transport departments and they also had very efficient statistics about all the things related to traffic.
They counted all the cars every year, made traffic prognoses, models. They knew everything about traffic. Every time there was a planning proposition. The transport engineers had all the data ready. „Look here, Mr Mayor, we need extra lanes”. But do you know in this period of any cities that had a department for pedestrians and public life? And do you know of any cities in this period that started to have knowledge about how the people were using the city and how the people were reacting to the car invasion?
Actually nowhere was there any concerted effort to look after the people in the cities. So we knew everything about traffic but nothing about people and that made big imbalance in city planning. What we know is that gradually more and more human qualities were by salami technique [= slice by slice] taken out of the cities. And we lost the sense of quality, we lost the memory of how nice cities could be. The quality was not there any more. Much of the joy of being in the city had gone. […]
00:16:17 – Modernism as the other paradygm; traditional cities are no good any more for a „modern man”
The other change of paradigm that happend around that timewas the big-scale introduction of modernism planning principles. We started to do completely different type of cities where we used free standing buildings placed away from the streets. And the streets were more and more full of cars, so maybe it was a good idea. These guys were radical.
This was plan for the new Paris. They thought Paris would be much better if you took away Paris and put up 24 high-rise buildings and put all the Parisians into the high-rise buildings so they can see the grass and they could sit there and be happy with their red wine up in the high-rise. This is how drastic this modernism actually was.
What happened with the modernists was that they actually said that now we have the modern world, we have the modern man. Everything shall be different from everything in the past. We shall build no more cities. We shall do everything differently that we did and we shall not use any of the experience we had through several thousand of years of human settlements. „We can do better” – said the modernists. That was what I was brought up with in the school of architecture.
00:17:47 – Cars and modernism become the main mould for the rapid city development
[…] Around 1960, because economic and health situation was better we started to have great expansions in the cities. We built big new areas and it was very easy to use at that time modernism because that was very simple. […]
And to overview it the planners went up in airplanes […] So, city planning was done from high up and above. But what was not looked after was the spaces left over between the buildings where the people were supposed to be. No profession, neither landscape architects, nor architects or planners, traffic planners were trained in any way to look after the little scale.
00:19:06 – The little scale and the Brasilia syndrome, „bird shit architects”
The little scale was simply overlooked. And that maybe is the most important of all the scales.
And that’s why we have all these awful new housing areas. I called this development „the Brasilia syndrome”
because at that time the capital of Brazil Brasilia, was made. And for the modernists it was a big make – Brasilia. We all had to study how Costa and Niemeyer made Brasilia. And Brasilia was „wonderful”.
From the air, from the airplane, Brasilia is an eagle. and the head of the eagle is the parliament. Isn’t that beautiful? And also Niemeyer did all these wonderful monumental ministries along the big parks. „Wonderful”. But then if you go to Brasilia down at eye level you realise that for the people Brasilia is shit. Nobody ever thought that there would be any Brasilians walking in this city. And maybe they thought they had money to give all Brasilians a helicopter so they could enjoy Brasilia. But they have no helicopters so they just walk endlessly around in this wasteland, Brasilia.
That’s what I call „the Brasilia syndrome”. Looking good from the air, but not good where you are. And they still do it, actually. This way of building has been very persistent through all these maybe 50 years. In Dubai – it’s still Brasilia syndrome. [It’s a global world situation.] We have „bird shit architects” who fly around and drop high-rise buildings.
Anywhere they can set a skyscraper they come and drop skyscrapers without concerning much about where it lands and how it lands. But dropping skyscrapers does not make a good city automtically, not at all. […] So the planners had not really learnt much about people and did not really taken much care of people in this period.
00:21:45 – About architects as form-lovers and people’s reactions, „male pig architects”
One could think then that the architects would be the heroes who looked after people. But in all these 50 years the architects became increasingly competitive with each other […]. They started to compete more and more on funny shapes so that the form became the focus. I know it because I’ve been in school of architecture for so many years and taught in many schools. increasingly form was the focus of the interest.
Buildings in Dubai resemble my wife’s perfumes bottles in the bathroom. So that every architect thinks „How can we make it a little bit more funny? This would be the thing to do here.” So they make funny shapes but they do not make good cities.
So you think that it could not be any worse. But it can. This is an exhibition in Tate Modern about the glory of modern city planning. You can do city planning with anything. With biscuits and liquorice and whatever. […]
This is one of the newest housing residential projects in New York by Frank Gehry, in Brooklyn. The people in Brooklyn are not at all happy about this. I don’t think Brooklyn would be a better place with all these funny buildings coming.
We see this competition on funny shapes rather than on quality in all these years. If we take a look how people the general people around the world look on these developments you can find that they never, at any point, liked this kind of planning and this kind of architecture. The world is full of cartoons and criticism where people say: „Yeah, it may be good architecture, but I don’t like to live there or to be there”. In Australia they were more precise about who could be the reason of the problem here: „pig male architects”.
00:24:26 – How architects cheat by filling their visualisations with crowds of happy people
One could conclude that the architects are not interested in people, either. That is absolutely wrong. The architects, or we architects, we love people. Life and people is the best thing we know because every time we hand in a competition project it’s crawling with happy people who go about doing things which we never see people do anywhere. We call it unspecified public life.
That means people doing things they would never do in real life and far too many od them. You can see all the projects whether it’s a good or bad project, they’re always crawling with happy people because happy people is a sign that it must be a good project or they wouldn’t be there. They would have gone home or never come out. So if there are people it must be good.
But it’s not enough to have people on perspective drawings. Here is a perspective drawing for a new project in Sidney. As you can see all the inhabitants of the city have come down here in the lunch time to see what good project it will be.
Here when Daniel Libeskind finishes his two high-rises in Copenhagen suddenly this area will come to life and people will spring out of the buildings and populate the place. It will be lively [a priori]. […]
So there’s great interest in people on perspective drawings. Instinctively, we all have the feeling that people are important, that it’s important that spaces become lively that we made architecture and cities in such a way that people would love to be there. But there is a big gap between this instintive feeling and what is really happening.
This is a brand new promenade in London by Norman Foster next to the town hall go and have a nice walk there. in London, enjoy, enjoy. This is a wonderful place by Rem Koolhaas in Lille where you can sit and think about philosophy or something.
This is a bench somewhere in the water front where maybe you can bring your girlfriend there and explain what a wonderful world is waiting for her if she marries you.
World is full of these silly things whereas there’s this fanstastic gap between what people dream about and where people are comfortableand what is actually many times offered to them.
And this is very much what this first part on the city in the book is about: to tell about these paradigms which in various ways changed our mindset. One of the things that happened is that our sense of human scale was completely shattered because the cars and the speed of cars shattered the understanding of good human scale. And then the modernists with their big buildings and big spaces also blurred the scale. So, human scale is something we had before 1960. Or maybe it’s coming back now.I’ll end by telling you about this little housing area in Copenhagen.
00:28:05 – „Potato Rows” district in Copenhagen as an example of mundane looking buildings but meeting all the requirements of people friendly residential area
This little housing area in Copenhagen has two-three story row houses is called „The Potato Rows”. It is famous because it’s not interesting at all from an airplane. It’s really – boring. If you came up with this in a school of planning and say: „This is my plan for this new residential area”, they would say: „Are you crazy? Haven’t you got any issues and haven’t you got any crazy things?” But down between the buildings it’s got all the qualities you can speak of. We have a list of 12 qualities which you try to build into any project if you want people to have a good time and in this case all 12 are greatly observed. The inhabitants there are having such a good time that they have no time to be sorry that it doesn’t look fine from an airplane and a helicopter.
Because what is really important is what it looks like from where you are, where your children are, where your grandparents are. […] And this particular area is the highest price dwellings in Copenhagen. So this kind of qualities are highly valued. And also, if you look closer you find in this area the highest concentration of architects’ families in Denmark. […] Half of the professors of school of architecture live here. The Prime Minister lives here, the head of city planning lives here. So all these guys, they know exactly that it is where you are that is the most important. And then there’s the discprepancy between this kind of understanding qualities and what is going to be done in new areas.
So the message of this book is that the most important scale of all is the people scale. It’s the city, the qualities at eye level and when you’re walking 5 kilometers around. If you have not the energy to do the aircraft scale and a helicopter scale and the people scale, then only do the people scale because that’s the important one. If you can do the other ones, fine. People scale – that’s what counts. And that what has been so sorely missed in these 50 years with these paradigms.
00:31:21 – The new paradygm of a livable, sustainable and healthy city
We have now definitely a new paradigm that is rapidly introduced all over the world. If you ask mayors of cities: „Would you like a livable, sustainable and healthy city for your citizens?”, they would say like I’m sure your mayor here: „That’s is exactly what we want in this city”. And so, we see that this livability thing is much more about quality then about quantity. It’s not about how big it is and how high it is. It’s about what quality it gives you and your family and what it gives you when you get old. And we know that one of the most sure things we know about the future is that we’ll see more and more old people in our cities which will put new demands on good qualities of cities. We increasingly are interested in good public spaces and good lively city districts and in livable cities.
00:32:21 – Indirect communication vs meeting people face to face in public space as a precondition of democracy
So many things have changed in our lives. We live in smaller and smaller households. We get older and older. We have all this electronic communication, but it’s not the same as having a real access to other people. And we have this increasingly privatised life and we organize everything without comming out at all. But man has always been a social animal. If you have access to the real things, to places which are wonderful, where the sun is shining and nice fellow citizens from your neighborhood are gathering, you’d like to go there, the children would like to see how the world looks, and so would you. […]
Throughout the history of man, people in the city have always been the main attraction for other people and they still are.
I think that the more indirect communication the more important is the direct one, meetings. There are cities which say that for the reason of supporting democracy and social inclusion in our community we have a specific policy that people should use public spaces and meet other people in society. They should not only hear about them but they should meet them and see them. Even if they are poor, young or old they are nice people, nearly all of them. And that is my society, this is my democracy, this is my city.
So, they have this policy that it is not good if people stay home all time but we should have good public spaces. And when we have good public spaces people use it to high extent.
00:34:37 – Global warming as a new driver for livable cities
Then we’ve had a new very important driver. Ever since Brundtlant report in 1987 started to point out that we have a serious problem with global warming we know that all over the world we have to do something for the sustainability. We also know that the major part of problems comes from the cities. So it is in the cities that we should do especially much to do something to address the climate challenge. And then again we know that the more real mobility you have in your city, the better for the climate. The more people walk or bicycle that’s of course good for the climate.
But if we are to get away from having motorcars [we should] use other types of mobility, good public rail and good public transportation. They are actually brothers and sisters because to have a good public transportation you must have a good way to walk or bicycle down there or to get your bicycle on the train or the tram. So that it becomes a system.
00:36:06 – Staying fit as a new challenge. How does city planning determine that?
Finally, we’ve had a new challenge, not a recent challenge. We have come to realise that for 50 years we made city planning invite people to be more and more unhealthy, to sit on their bottom all life and just be more and more sick. We know now from America that more people die out of inactivity than die out of smoking. We have made the world so you can really do everything without [using your muscles]. This inactivity is really a problem and city planning has been very active in making this problem. […]
Now we again realise that we are a walking animal. We are meant for walking and we know that if we walk for 1 hour or 0,5 hour of walking, 0,5 hour of bicycling we’ll be much better off, we will as average live 7 years longer than those who don’t.
And it will be much cheaper for society because the problems of all this inactivity come especially in the old age. So we know there’s an enormous benefit for society if we can make people move more naturally. The idea that everybody would be so… clever as to use time and money to go to a fitness centre 3 times a week. That was a beautiful idea, but we know now that if some people do it, they do it in special periods, but in their lifetime there are many periods when they don’t have time, energy and motivation to do your jogging or to go to the fitness centre.
And that’s why we now see cities all over the world saying: „Let’s make city planning so that people move naturally in the course of their every day.” […] So we have this new paradigm today, we want lively, sustainable and healthy cities. And actually, if we look carefully after people in city planning we efficiently address exactly these 3 issues.
And that is very much what this new book is about.
00:39:01 – „Cities for people” approach applied in Copenhagen
I’ll tell you a few stories about how the kind of thinking in this book has been applied and where. I shall invite you to the city of Copenhagen, my home city. Copenhagen is one of the cities where the City Council have voted that in this city we’ll do everything we can to make people walk more and cycle more. They do it for a number of good reasons: climate, health, livability and economy. In Copenhagen they are actually started 50 years ago. It was one of the first in Europe to start to say: „Hey, all these cars, maybe it is so good maybe be we push them back.” They pushed back the cars in the first streets 50 years ago and they have worked for 50 years now to make the city a little bit better for people every day.
00:40:18 – Public spaces in Copenhagen
They were among the very first and nobody believed that it was possible to make pedestrian areas in Scandinavia. They said: „We’re Danes, we’re not Italians, we will never use these spaces”. Then they cleared them of traffic and next year we were Italians.
And we have become more and more Italian during all these 50 years. Because there’ve been changes in society, people have much more leisure and recreation time, much more energy and there are many more culture initiatives. We easily have enough time to use a nice public space if we have it. So Copenhagen started a long series of imrovements. Year after year. I’ve been married for 50 years and sometimes my wife and I talk about how fantastic it is to be in the city, where all the time we’ve been married, we know every morning when we wake up that the city is somehow better that it was yesterday.
That is something which every city should strive to do: we’ll make it better every day. I know many cities like Mexico City where every morning they know for sure that it will be worse than yesterday.
Also, Copenhagen was the first city in the world where the life of the city was studied systematically and the information about life was fed back to politicians. So that they did not only have information about the traffic but also they have information about how people use the city. And that proved to be a very strong medicine for the politicians. When I retired from the university where we were developing all these studies, I got this letter from the mayor saying: „If you guys, in the university, had not given us all this information about the life of the city we politicians would never have dared to make Copenhagen one of the nicest cities in the world”.
So, they had courage out of finding that when they did something, people liked it and it worked well. So they could do another project. Just to give you an idea this is a very first project from 1962 and this is the most recent map of a city centre. It is not that they are taking cars off from the spaces but all these spaces have been organized so that they are wonderful spaces for people and public life. Sometimes also with cars. We shall not be fundamentalistic. We love cars, but we don’t want them to dominate.
Also, we’ve seen in all these years increasingly that the public spaces are not shopping streets. Now they develop towards exercise, towards activity, swimming and running, jogging and playing. So more and more joy, recreation and culture are coming into the public spaces. As we are now 50 years later in developing of public spaces and there are more of them.
Copenhagen now has this policy passed in 2009 in City Council that we want to be the best city for people in the world. And they have specific goals how they will be the best city for people in the world. Every year they go out and study, and count the people and see what’s going on. And then they assess each of these goals and say: „Here we’re close to the goal, here we have to do more”. So that they follow every year what’s going on on the people’s side. So they make sure they really become a better city every day.
One of the things which are happening in Copenhagen is that it is not only about the city centre. This policy is about the whole city and that’s why they change the streets all over the city. They become more and more comfortable and invite people to walk also in residential districts and in the suburbs. Here is a typical old street which was just asphalt. And a modern street which has two lanes of traffic but also trees, bicycle lanes, sidewalk. Much more beautiful, much safer. And it can take almost the same traffic as the old street could because modern transport engineers are much smarter than they were in the 1970s. So Copenhagen is transforming itself.
Another thing which I think is very smart, is that every time a small street goes into a bigger street you take the sidewalk and the bicycle lane of the big street across so that the cars from the small street have to go over the sidewalk to get to the big street. […] Now Laura, my 7 year old granddaughter, can stay on the sidewalk all the way to school. She doesn’t have to cross any streets any more. And that is fantastic difference for a 7 year old if you have to cross 3 streets or if your sidewalk goes through and it is the cars that have to cross 3 sidewalks. Simple but very, very important little changes.
00:46:29 – Bicycles in Copenhagen
Another part of Copenhagen story is bicycles. There was a time in the 1960s when they thought bicycles were on the way of progress – progress meaning more cars. They did certain things to get bicycles out of the way. Like in Beijing and Shanghai, they prohibited bicycling in normal streets. Now they changed it there also. In Denmark, after the oil crisis in 1973 they said: „Oh, bicycle for God’s sake, that was a good idea”. They decided to do something for it instead of getting rid of them. Now Copenhagen has the complete network of bicycle lanes in all important streets. Bicycle lanes with a curb here and a curb there. And it developed into a complete transport system. You can transport anything with bicycles. Every third family with children in Copenhagen has a cargo bike and they take the kids to school and kindergarten in a cargo bike. And the kids like much more to sit in a cargo bike and see what’s going on than to be stuck into a car on the rear seat. Anything can be transported if you have a good bicycle network.
Over the years, it has become more and more safe. Especially the crossings are the critical points. But they now have a number of smart things. To have a good bicycle system you have to integrate it with other transport means so that it all becomes a real system. All the taxis must take 2 bicycles. If your girlfriend has a bump a taxi must take both of you. Also in the trains you can take your bicycles for free. And that is very, very popular. For example my wife and I, we are in the mid 70s, we can cycle 2 km, get a little bit of fresh air and exercise, take a train for 20 km, cycle 2 km, visit the son and grandchildren and cycle back to the train. We have a trip which is very uncomplicated and gives us a bit of exercise.
Over the years, and they work on this for many years, there’s developed a bicycle culture. In Copenhagen bicycling is what everybody does. An average Copenhagen inhabitant has 1.4 of bicycle or something like that. Everybody cycles: businessmen, pregnant women and children, elderly people. The Prince even bicycles with his little child. […] In Copenhagen we are now in the situation where 41% of people go to work, arrive to work or university on bicycles. Driving a car is down to 24% of those going to work.
Do we have winter? Yes, we have winter. In Denmark, 70% of people continue do bike during winter. One of the tricks is that the street rules from the city government say that if there’s snow the first thing you should clear is the bicycle lanes because when there is snow, the cars go very carefully and nothing happens in the streets. If anything happens – boom, ah! But no injury. But if it’s slippery on bicycle lanes, you can fall and it could be serious. So they say: „Start with bicycle lanes, continue with the sidewalk. If you have more capacity, go and clean the snow from the road.” Also in Copenhagen now they have another policy saying: „We’ll also be the best in the world for bicycles”.
So in Copenhagen we have no problems? Yes, we have serious problems now. We have this awful congestion in Copenhagen on bicycle lanes. We have far too many bicycles. And in some streets, there are 40 thousand cyclists every day. Boring… What do we do? What they are doing now is making a big program of doubling widths of bicycle lanes. Where did they get asphalt from? They are taking it away from cars, from parkings. It’s a very good transport economy because a bike lane is taking 5 times more people than a car lane. So if there’s enough of bicycles, it’s good economy to give them the space. Also they enforced to double the capacity in the trains [for bikes] because it’s very popular.
00:52:12 – Benefits and national level.
What could be the effect of all these things? One of the things is that whenever you see a list of the most livable cities in the world you very frequently can find Copenhagen at the very top. On „Monocle” list from last year and again this year [2013, 2014] Copenhagen is world most livable city. The mayor and all the politicians, they clap their hands because it’s good for economy to be the most livable because, that’s good for investments etc.
[But it is not only] Copenhagen, it’s also a bit of Denmark here. And when ministers were going to the Queen to have their commissions they said „No, it’s not desired any more for limousines. We go on bicycles up to the Queen”. Then they went [to the guards] and said: „Would you look after my bicycle while I’ll talk to the Queen?”
I’m very happy that when the Danish minister of culture was asked to pose for series of European culture ministers reading their favourite book, she chose to sit with my little humble book. She said: „Jan, I took your book so people can see I took the English version so people can see what I’m interesed in”. That is very nice to be in a country where a culture minister reads about cities for people.
This culture minister also just launched the new Danish National Architecture Plan. It was not something about „Let’s make more export on building materials”. It’s about: „Let’s put people first in architecture policy.” That is very comforting for an old man to see these developments and see these things happening.
00:54:46 – Other cities follow Copenhagen.
Do we find similar policies in other cities? Yes, increasingly we do. I could invite you the city of Melbourne, which have all the same policy as in Copenhagen. They did miracles in Melbourne. It looks like any American or Australian city and in the old days it was famous for being completely uninteresting. Full of offices, no people. A 9-to-5 city, not a 24h city. It was called „The Donut”. Something with nothing in the middle. They decided that they would do whatever they could to invigorate Melbourne. To do so, they made this big program that in Melbourne we walk, we invite people to walk. […] Trees for shades, fantastic, nice street furniture. We do everything to signalize that here you should walk. And they also took, to some extent, the cars out of the city centre. They stepped out the number of people living in the city centre by 10 times in 10 years. And it’s now come way up again. Here is [a picture] from Melbourne, one of the streets [that now has more] pedestrians than Regent Street in London. They are very proud of that. If you go to Melbourne today it’s such a nice city. I think it’s like… It’s got all the ambience and atmosphere like Paris but the weather is better in Melbourne.
We have followed what’s happening in Melbourne and we can prove that all these improvements lead to many more people now using Melbourne, being much more active by day and by night. All the important economic factors are up. In the costumer type society if you’re sweet to people, you’re also sweet to economy. So there is more turnover, more jobs, higher real estate values and so on.
What are they doing now in Melbourne? They are at full speed to meet the Copenhagen’s type bicycle system. What is the Copenhagen type? That is to have the car parks to protect bicycles instead of having the bicycles to protect the cars.
I could go on and you feel I could. I’d tell about other Australian cities, like Sydney, which is doing a lot now to copy Melbourne. They’re always competing. And shortly, in Sydney they will have the main street emptied of buses and cars and they will have tram and pedestrians. In all these cities they’ve done exactly like we did in Copenhagen. They have started to have data about the people so that the people use of the city has become well known and a part of a policy making system. If we take a list of the world’s most livable cities, as it was in 2013 you can see that exactly Melbourne and Copenhagen are at the very top. Many others use this strategy of taking a strong interest in life and use the information and data about the life to improve the situation for life in the cities.
00:59:01 – New York – Michael Bloomberg, Janette Sadik-Khan, Amanda Burden; Broadway, Times Square, Herald Square, Madison Square, Union Square
I’ll end by telling about two other cities which are slightly bigger that Lublin. Another city which decided that we walk and cycle there, is New York. In 2007 the mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg promised that „We will be the most sustainable metropolis in the world during my period as a mayor.” They had 1 million commuter cars coming into Manhattan every day. „We have a very good subway system, we have a flat city with concentrated buildings. We have wide streets. It’s a perfect city for cycling. So you take the subway, you take your bike or you walk or you combine these things.” That was the strategy.
There was a lot of people walking in New York. They shuffled from the subway to offices and back. There was not a single bench in New York. There was almost no sidewalk cafés. So that you could sit nowhere to enjoy New York. They used cyclist to protect the parked cars. […]
The first thing Michael Bloomberg did was to appoint two bright ladies as transport commissioner and planning commissioner. And two weeks later they popped up in Copenhagen. Janette Sadik-Khan and Amanda Burden They grabbed two bicycles for 48 hours. [They cycled all over the Copenhagen] . We couldn’t get bicycles from them even in the night. And only at the airport we got the bicycles back.
They said: „We wanna city like this one. When can we start?” I was quick and said: „Let’s start on Monday”. Because they are Americans, they want to get going. They said: „Let’s start on Monday.”
So they started right away with putting in 5 000 kilometres of bicycle lanes. They decided for a city-wide bicycle system. […] They’re doing it in all boroughs. In Queens and Brooklyn, Bronx, State Island. And also they started to think that for all these people going around New York we need some good public spaces where they can rest and enjoy New York. We had Times Square but it was not a square, it was a traffic roundabout. In Times Square 90% of all the space was allocated to traffic and 10% for pedestrians. And if you counted the people, 90% of the people where on sidewalks and 10% where in the cars. So it was figured out that maybe they needed the Champs-Élysées of America. It could be „Broadway boulevards”, sounds good.
And then we worked further with them and found out that they did not need Broadway in the traffic circulation there. Actually, traffic could be smarter if they didn’t have traffic in Broadway. It was decided to close all the crossings on Broadway with the major boulevards, all the crucial places where there were tons of people. And so it was Herald Square, Madison Square, Union Square, Times Square. Here is what Times Square looked like in early 2009. And this is a little bit later in 2009.
Many people were very worried saying: „This is the Big Apple, and we cannot use your ideas in the Big Apple. We need yellow taxis.” But the mayor said: „This is an experiment, don’t worry.” And then, half a year later he came back and said: „An experiment? No more, no way. It’s the biggest success for hundreds years in New York city planning. It’s going to stay.”
It has resounded enormously that they can do this kind of things, that they can put in bicycle lanes and do what they can to reduce commuter traffic. They made now 50 people squares in New York on the model of Times Square and they’re very successful. It resounded around the United States but actually around the world. And you know that we have Frank Sinatra singing about Broadway: „When you can make it there then you can make it everywhere. Lublin, Lublin, Lublin…”
01:05:07 – Moscow – mayor Sergey Sobyanin, transformation of the Tverskaya Street
The mayor of Moscow Sergey Sobyanin heard about what they did in New York and at the conference in Montreal where I was speaking his deputy asked me: „What you’ve done in New York, we need in Moscow. When can you come?” – „On Monday”, I said.
They wanted us to humanize Moscow in 3 months. Moscow have a little problem with traffic because they got the cars rather late and they have rather strong love affair with the motorcar. And also I think they have a special rule that freedom from communism is the right to park everywhere. So this is one of the streets, this is an ordinary Moscow street. Have a good time there. Here is a little pedestrian crossing where you can also train slalom for the Winter Olympics.
Here is the main street in Moscow, Tverskaya where, of course, they have car park all the way down Tverskaya on the sidewalk.
In the Tverskaya street they had car park all the way on the sidewalk. They have icicles on houses so they have 1 meter left on the main street in Moscow for people to pass. […] In 3 months they published all my books with the seal of Moscow on covers. I personally made sure that they have read them. And then we got commissions by Moscow to come and make the study on what the problems were in Moscow and how could you do something about them. […] I was invited again to Mr Sergey Sobyanin and he said: „What would you say in reports about Moscow?”. I said: „Maybe parking on main streets on sidewalks on main streets in Moscow is not the greatest idea I’ve ever heard about.” Two months later there were no cars on the sidewalk on main street in Moscow […]. Actually, they started to have parking rules because they had to. Every city has to start to do it at one point.
And mayor checked if people obeyed the new roles and if you forgot your car, it went straight to Syberia. You only do it once and then you remember the new rule for ever. You may think it very brutal but in Lithuania the mayor uses a tank to go over cars which are parked in bike lanes. If your Mercedes is run over by a tank you’ll remember it.
A year and half later no cars were parked anymore, no advertisements were up in the sky. It became a little bit of a green street. All the way where there were cars now there are benches. And in the distance you can now see Kremlin which was there all the time but you couldn’t see it for these signs.
To me, this was absolutely a miracle. When Moscow can start to make steps towards being a livable city then everybody can do it. That shows how widespread this movement, this change of paradigms has come. So now you can see the mayor of Moscow City at conferences talking about the way how to make a livable city”. We’ve come a long way since 1960 and I’m very happy about that.
And I’m very happy about that now this little puny book is out in Polish. And I would urge you to read it and not do like Chinese and just pretend you read it but I hope that you’ll find inspiration and I wish you welcome to the 21 century. Thank you.