Designing Public Spaces for People—and Bikes

helle-gehlBetter bike commuting in Seattle would benefit greatly from a downtown make-over.  Better public spaces, connectivity and priority for active transportation would make biking safer, more popular and more fun.  Cascade participated in a lively discussion centering on the recent results of the Public Space/Public Life study by Gehl Architects—the first project of its kind in the United States.

Helle Søholt, Gehl Architects managing partner, was on hand to kick off the discussion with a few dozen planners, developers, and decision-makers.  A few interesting points that piqued my interest:

  • The creation of a great space downtown is hindered by an “incomplete bicycle network” (I bet you already knew that)
  • In cities like Copenhagen, investment from private land-owners and developers in making a more livable streetscape—think more greenery, fewer cars and abundant sidewalk cafes—is routinely ten times the amount of money the city puts in.
  • New York’s recent pilot project in Times Square (a Gehl Architects project) saw 17% better traffic flow and over 10% more pedestrians—and cut collisions by far more than 50%.  So wait: reclaim public right of way for people and safety, livability and better traffic flow?  I think Seattle's ripe for such an experiment.

Stay tuned, as this discussion is just beginning and may generate promising momentum to improve the street environment for current and future bicycle commuters.