Jan Gehl, the renowned Danish urban designer, is in New York City this week where, sources say, he has been hired as a consultant for Mayor Michael Bloomberg's Long-Term Planning and Sustainability initiative.
At a presentation to the board of the Regional Plan Association on Wednesday Danish urban designer Jan Gehl said New York City must tame the automobile if it is going to become a truly great city for pedestrians and for public life.
Asked during questions what he would do specifically for the city, Gehl said he would make pedestrians more comfortable in the city by adding street furniture, widening sidewalks and creating "oasises" for them. In addition, he would put immediate emphasis on better conditions for cyclists. And finally, he said attention should be paid to the mass transit system. Good mass transit and good pedestrian environments, he said, "are brothers and sisters," each depending on the other.
In his lecture and slide show, Gehl talked of how in Copenhagen they had added bike lanes and additional sidewalk space by converting most four-lane streets to two lanes. Looking back over the last few decades, Gehl showed how big urban cities like Barcelona, Melbourne, Copenhagen and others are "reclaiming" their public spaces and streets for pedestrians by putting less emphasis on accommodating cars. He mentioned how in 1962, all of Copenhagen's principal squares, 18 of them, were being used for parking lots. Now all are used for public life. Gehl said that he sees enormous potential for similar improvements in New York City.
Thanks to Aaron Naparstek