Article: Designing good cities for walking

Streetsblog.org has posted excerpts from acclaimed Danish Architect Jan Gehl’s book “Cities for People.”  When it comes to designing a good public space for people to linger in or walk through, Jan Gehl has it practically down to a science.  For instance, he says that 1,640 feet is the distance most pedestrians find to be an acceptable walk, but the built environment can make that distance shorter or longer, depending on how hospitable it is to pedestrians.  (For more information, read about pedestrians and the built environment.)

When you think about it, it does seem ridiculous that many streets require people to press a button in order to cross, implying that they need permission to interrupt car traffic.  According to Gehl, the car has taken over in cities so much that it has forced pedestrians out of the way.  Walking around the city, you can see evidence of this everywhere–the streets are kept clear, but lampposts, newsstands, garages, and other things have been forced onto the sidewalk, making it a veritable obstacle course.  Gehl mentions that “[an] important prerequisite for a comfortable and pleasurable walk is room to walk relatively freely and unhampered.”  This means sidewalks that are wide enough and unencumbered by obstacles or encroachments.

Have you seen any sidewalk encroachments in Philadelphia lately?  If so, take a picture of the encroachment and submit it to our “Where’s my effin’ sidewalk?” photo contest.  More details here.

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