Slow streets are key to a livable city | StreetFilms video on Copenhagen

The vibrant public life in Copenhagen is featured in this video from StreetFilms. It’s difficult to describe the livability and life in public that makes this city special without going there, but this film does it justice. Great urbanism, at its core, is really about a quality of life in public spaces. Fostering that life in public requires a shift in values, from one prioritizing the needs of cars, to one prioritizing the needs and wants of people living life in public. Taming the automobile so that is a guest in a public realm dominated by people is key to any successful public space, whether a square in Copenhagen, Clematis Street, or the Flagler Waterfront.

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In Copenhagen, you never have to travel very far to see a beautiful public space or car-free street packed with people soaking up the day. In fact, since the early 1960s, 18 parking lots in the downtown area have been converted into public spaces for playing, meeting, and generally just doing things that human beings enjoy doing. If you’re hungry, there are over 7,500 cafe seats in the city.

But as you walk and bike the city, you also quickly become aware of something else: Most Copenhagen’s city streets have a speed limit of 30 to 40 km/h (19 to 25 mph). Even more impressive, there are blocks in some neighborhoods with limits as low as 15 km/h (9 mph) where cars must yield to residents. Still other areas are “shared spaces” where cars, bikes and pedestrians mix freely with no stress, usually thanks to traffic calming measures (speed bumps are popular), textured road surfaces and common sense.

We charmed you last month with our look at bicycling in Copenhagen, now sit back and watch livable streets experts Jan Gehl and Gil Penalosa share their observations about pedestrian life. You’ll also hear Ida Auken, a member of Denmark’s Parliament, and Niels Tørsløv, traffic director for the City of Copenhagen, talk about their enthusiasm for street reclamation and its effect on their city.

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