Kaid Benfield Archive


Streets for people work for cities

Kaid Benfield

Posted November 21, 2008 at 4:37PM

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  Copenhagen's famous Stroget (by: Miguel Bernas, creative commons license)  Rue Ste. Catherine, Montreal (by: caribb/Doug Bull, creative commons license)

Copenhagen (above left) has long reserved its main shopping street for pedestrians, as have other European cities (Galway comes immediately to mind).  More recently, Montreal (above right) and even New York have experimented with the idea.

Writing in the Toronto Globe and Mail, Chris Turner reports:

"Last summer Montreal transformed 12 blocks of Ste. Catherine Street, one of its busier thoroughfares, into a vibrant public square. Outdoor cafés spilled out on the cracked concrete, and buskers and sculptures filled the curbside parking spaces. The catalyst for all this was simple: The city closed the stretch that serves as the main drag for Ville-Marie, also known as its gay village, to motor vehicles.

"In the process, Montreal began to look like - for 10 weeks, at least - what famed Danish architect Jan Gehl calls a 'reconquered' city.

"Mr. Gehl is the chief proponent and visionary for a burgeoning global movement known as 'pedestrianization.' He feels people are healthier and happier when their feet are on the ground, and his ideas have helped to turn his native Copenhagen into a haven for walkers and cyclists - and inspired similar changes in cities as diverse as Oslo, Barcelona, London and Melbourne.

"Now he is facing his greatest challenge: bringing this vision to the car-obsessed cities of North America. His company, Gehl Architects, is working with municipal governments in Seattle and New York, and San Francisco may sign on soon . . ."

For the rest of this well-researched and informative article, go here.