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Streetfilm: Jan Gehl and Gil Penalosa on Copenhagen’s Car-Free Streets & Slow-Speed Zones

by Clarence Eckerson, Jr.


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.


Editor's note: This video post comes to us from our Worldchanging allies at Streetfilms. The site is a part of the Livable Streets Network, an online community for people who are working to create sustainable cities through sensible urban planning, design, and transportation policy. Streetfilms, and their sister sites, serve as a conversation hub where people can actively discuss, report and reflect on the creation and evolution of this movement.

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