Traffic culture: pedestrians ahead!

An experiment began 70 years ago in Danish and Dutch cities, including some in German Westphalia: turning away from the automobile city and towards bicycle traffic. Especially in Copenhagen you can experience wonderfully wide cycle paths, which in this country must appear almost paradisiacal to cyclists who are used to hopping through tree roots.

The phenomenal Christiania tricycle became the rolling symbol of this reorientation. A terrifically easy-to-steer load carrier that not only transports children and groceries, but also washing machines plus a table, chair and other items clamped over them – still in these days.

This “away from the car” is closely linked to the name of the Danish urban planner Jan Gehl, who was born in 1932 – may he still be around for many years to come. His book “Cities for People” (in German from Jovis-Verlag) is to be given to all politicians, city planners, business people and citizens who are fixated on individual automobile transport. It shows how much space can be gained in a city for playing and being together when we free ourselves from the auto-fixation of our planning and debates. And it shows that even in large cities like Copenhagen, the car – if public transport is adequately developed! – not a necessity, but a usurpation of power: Who is allowed to take up more space – and who is not?

The fact that a garage space costs more per square meter in Hamburg or Berlin than a children’s playroom is no coincidence, but the result of a fundamentally misguided policy that finds standing metal more important than rampaging brats.

But Copenhagen also shows how resilient this driver policy is. Even the body of this green capital is still furrowed by broad lanes of traffic. At best, they were narrowed down – and thus a new power structure mediated by space allocation established: the pedestrian walkways there are often remarkably narrow. Now it’s the relatively young and those who are new to cycling who take their space here and in turn discriminate against children, the elderly and pedestrians. Read Jan Gehl: This is not how a city is created for people, only one for traffic.

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Source: Tagesspiegel

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