Kyiv for People?
Do you enjoy living in your city? Do you feel safe and comfortable on its streets? Do you get to work without a single curse to the universe for overcrowded marshrutkas or never-ending traffic jams? If you give a ‘no’ to at least one of these questions, then a new book Cities for People by Jan Gehl is your next must-read this summer.
For more than 50 years, Danish architect and urban designer Jan Gehl has been on a mission to help cities transform into more human-centred spaces with a high level of safety and comfort for inhabitants. While exploring global urban practices, Gehl gathered examples of city planning, which, when done wisely and in a human-friendly way, can positively influence people’s lifestyles.
Written after years of work and research, Cities for People comprises a checklist of things-to-be-done on the way to lively, ecological, safe, and people-friendly cities.
With Kyiv’s rapid expansion upwards and outwards, the Ukrainian translation of Gehl’s book arrives right on time. Kyiv isn’t a city for people just yet. But putting into practice some of his pivotal insights may help us improve our urban environment and make the Ukrainian capital a place for even more comfortable everyday living.
In the early 1960s, Copenhagen launched a long-term program aspiring to increase the usage of bicycles. After completing a network of well-equipped bike paths, the number of citizens who rely on two wheels rather than four reached a record 37% (cars – 31%, public transport – 31%).
Insight # 1: Build alternative transport infrastructure with more cycle and pedestrian paths.
When New York’s local authorities turned part of Manhattan’s 9th Avenue into a bicycle lane, the number of city cyclists doubled.
Insight #2. Create new transport habits by offering citizens quality and secure get-to options.
London’s initiative against the growing number of cars came by way of imposing road taxes in the central city area. The new policy led to the rise of cyclists by 48% and shook off traffic jams in the rush hours.
Insight # 3. Limit car access to downtown Kyiv to make room for walking, cycling, and maintaining public spaces in central districts.
The more public space we have, the livelier and secure the city is. Removing fences and bars near private and public buildings will encourage people to do more activities at ground level.
Insight # 4. Turn facades into public spaces, сosy cafés, or welcoming terraces for people to meet, talk, and spend time together.
For delivering additional comfort and safety, slowing down traffic and reducing noise on the streets, Gehl recommends opting for surface-level pedestrian crossings instead of underground or over-ground ones.
Insight # 5. Equip roads with ground level ‘zebra’ crossings lying close to each other.
Even though these few human-focused bits of advice won’t drive instant results, they promise to be a groundbreaking investment into happy urban life. After all, cities do exist for people, and not vice versa. Let’s keep that in mind when planning and transforming Kyiv onwards.
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In the 1960s, urban planners shaped their course for building sustainable car-dominated cities. The so-called modernist ideology of urban planning came along with towering skyscrapers, inhospitable neighbourhoods, a lack of public space and a stranglehold of cars. As a result, in the early 21st century, neglect for the human dimension in city planning has led to a high risk of forgetting our human nature, and, unfortunately, Kyiv is no different.