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Kaid Benfield’s Blog

Copenhagen’s 10-point plan for a pedestrian-friendly city

Kaid Benfield

Posted July 7, 2009

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  Copenhagen's main shopping street, the Stroget (by: Pedro Plassen Lopes, creative commons license)

Via tweets from Streetsblog and the Hillsborough County (FL) metropolitan planning organization, I just came across an article about how Copenhagen has made itself one of the world's best cities for walkers.  The city is world-renowned, of course, for its pedestrian-only downtown streets, but there is more.  Here is an excerpt from the report by Paul Makovsky on

"Copenhagen is one of the world's great pedestrian cities. Although it's blessed with certain inherited characteristics--such as a narrow medieval street grid--the city has worked steadily to improve the quality of its street life. In the 40 years since Copenhagen's main street was turned into a pedestrian thoroughfare, city planners have taken numerous small steps to transform the city from a car-oriented place to a people-friendly one."

The article goes on to cite ten basic principles, and to link an interview with Jan Gehl, the Danish architect who is one of the world's foremost experts on urban spaces for people. 

    another view of Copenhagen's Stroget (by: Sylvain Bourdos, creative commons license)  and another view of Copenhagen's Stroget (by: Miguel Bernas, creative commons license)

While I have some qualms about how well some aspects would translate to most of America (in most US cities, our culture requires a bit more accommodation for cars), I love the general thrust and particularly like the guidance to keep the buildings dense but low, honor the human scale, populate the core, and adapt the cityscape to changing seasons.  American cities really need to work on the scale: density is almost always good, but high-rises aren't.  Go here for the article.

Kaid Benfield writes (almost) daily about community, development, and the environment.  For more posts, see his blog's home page.


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Dave ReidJul 7 2009 12:43 PM

Kaid, Copenhagen was 40 years ago on the same path to car-orientation as U.S. cities have been, but they made a change and slowly worked to where it is today. So I believe with a slow, long process similar results could be achieved in the U.S.

Randy SimesJul 7 2009 07:56 PM

As I read the first couple of paragraphs I kept thinking, well yeah, they've had the influence of the great Jan Gehl. Gehl is now taking his influence and brilliance to NYC and has helped with the incredible transformation that has taken place at Madison Square and other initiatives throughout the city.

If you haven't read Gehl's "Life Between Buildings" then you simply must. It's an incredible piece of work that identifies these concepts and programmatic elements in a clear and understandable way. After reading his book he quickly became one of my most admired urbanists.

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