A Placemaking Journal

The Human Scale

I recently watched The Human Scale again, a film from 2013, and felt the anticipation building to meet Jan Gehl at the 26th Congress for the New Urbanism (#CNU26) in Savannah next week, and at home in Winnipeg in September. I’m sure Jan will bring us an update on his city planning work in the last five years, but the ideas he shares in the film are timeless. Until then, here are memorable excerpts from the film, and the Twitter accounts of the speaker, when I could find them.

We have known this about the motorcar: if you make more roads, you will have more traffic. Now we know about cities: if you make more places for people, you will have more public life. In cities that have done away with their pubic spaces, life has become totally privatized. ~Jan Gehl @citiesforpeople

If you are a Robert Moses-type planner, you want to separate things, and extinguish the possibility for life to pop up. A concrete system in equilibrium (the Moses legacy of things moving quickly) is not what makes the city fantastic. Before the recent prioritization of pedestrians and cyclists, the image of New York City was of a throng of taxis in Times Square. The brand wasn’t the pedestrian experience. ~Jeff Risom @risomj

We have made the human living environment deadly. And people see that you can’t build your way out of traffic. ~Mark Gorton @MarkGortonNYC

New York City streets used to be 90% used by pedestrians and 10% by drivers, but the space allocation was just the opposite. We redid the math. ~Janette Sadik-Khan @JSadikKhan

New York City is changing North America’s perception of what the city street is all about. ~Paul Steely White @PSteely

Times Square, November 2017, image credit: Hazel Borys

Times Square, November 2017, image credit: Hazel Borys

When you walk through a city a five kilometers per hour, it’s a very sensual and interesting experience. So we design cities for people at the scale of 5 km/h. Suburbs are made so that cars are happy going 60 km/h. That’s a completely different scale from walking. We are building for ourselves problems of obesity, social isolation and financial hardship with the patterns of our car suburbs. ~Jan Gehl @citiesforpeople

We’re going to have to almost double our global urban capacity in the next 40 years. Global urban population was 3.5 billion in 2012 and by 2050 is expected to be 6.5 billion. We don’t have the capacity to keep building like we’ve been building, so we must figure out how to do more with less. ~City of Melbourne’s Lord Mayor Robert Doyle @LordMayorMelb

Dhaka is the fastest growing city on earth, with 1,000 new residents per day. The patterns of growth are destroying the flavor of the city. Ignoring lower income people and prioritizing for the rich becomes a callous of your own making as a city planner. ~Iqbal Habib, Architect, Urbanisation and Governance Committee

In Dhaka, 5% of people use private cars, and 37% use the ricksha. But conversations are underway to try to ban the ricksha, increasing auto congestion, and marginalizing lower income individuals. The budget for pedestrians is $10 million USD, while the budget for flyover overpasses is $1 billion. We want to be free of the negative forces of economic colonialism – car-centric development – in Bangladesh. ~Ruhan Shama Dhaka traffic

Image credit: flickr user: Pyb

The things that we want when we think as people – instead of as corporations – are actually very, very common. ~Bob Parker Mayor of Chistchurch, New Zealand @bobparkerchch

Cities are full of overlapping memories; overlapping stories. The city is not just bricks and mortar. It’s about love. Of the people for their place. It’s not possible for the master plan to answer all the questions, but we can create a robust framework that allows life to take place. Invitations to walk. To sit. To stay. A better way to cross the street. A better way to live your life. ~David Sim on Christchurch earthquake

City life comes when you give people a chance to not plan everything. To just come and dance. ~Coralie Winn @GapFillerChch

It is so cheap to be sweet to people in city planning. Man is a very clever animal who knows what he likes, and when he is uncomfortable. ~Jan Gehl @citiesforpeople

5th Ave at W 28th St, New York, 2017, image credit: Hazel Borys

5th Ave at W 28th St, New York, 2017, image credit: Hazel Borys

If you’re looking for tools to implement many of the ideas in The Human Scale film, definitely join us at CNU Savannah. You’ll find me in these sessions, among others:

CNU Form-Based Code Bootcamp
Tuesday, May 15, 9am – 5pm

202 / Workshop: Frontages, Frankly: How to Write a Character-Based Code
Wednesday, May 16, 9am – noon

FBC What’s Working, What’s Not, What’s Next
Friday, May 17, 8:30am – 10:30am

Liveable Cities for the 21st Century with Jan Gehl
Friday, May 17, 10:45am – 12:15pm

Engaging the Unlikely
Friday, May 17, 2-3:15pm

CNU Dance Party
Friday, May 17, 9:30pm

See you there!

Hazel Borys

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