Jan Gehl Says San Francisco Must be Sweet to Pedestrians and Cyclists

jan-and-gabriel7.jpgIt’s a good day in a city’s urbanist evolution when Jan Gehl comes to town, and now San Francisco can add itself to the growing list of cities around the world that have embraced his people-first approach to urban design and planning.

Hoping to keep pace with the progress in New York City over the past two years, the San Francisco Planning Department has commissioned Gehl Architects to transform several prominent streets and public spaces in the city, starting with one of the busiest tourist attractions in the U.S., Fisherman’s Wharf. 

On Tuesday night, in front of a
standing-room audience of special guests at Pier One’s Bayside Room,
Gehl presented his general vision for improving San Francisco’s public realm. The
event, sponsored by Mayor Gavin Newsom, San Francisco Planning and
Urban Research (SPUR)
, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, Livable
City
, and Walk SF, was the first in the new Great Streets Campaign Speakers Series, which will bring some of the world’s most remarkable urban visionaries
to the Bay Area in the coming months to share their successes and offer San
Francisco models for instituting its own vision for a sustainable and healthy city. 

Gehl is in town for a week of presentations to the public, to city agencies, and to merchants’ associations. On Wednesday, he will present the results of his firm’s Fisherman’s Wharf study to the public for the first time. The Planning Department is hopeful that his work will stimulate a larger discussion of the quality of public space among the stakeholders in the area.

John Rahaim, director of the Planning Department, noted that Gehl’s work around the world brings a cachet to San Francisco and helps "set the stage to implement pedestrian improvements and demonstration projects on our streets." Rahaim is optimistic that Gehl’s work will "start a process to implement the principles of [San Francisco’s] Better Streets Plan," the comprehensive new pedestrian and public space plan that is awaiting completion of environmental review.

Gehl was cagey when asked about what San Francisco should do to be more like Copenhagen or Paris, arguing that the study his firm has completed for the Fisherman’s Wharf project is only a preliminary analysis and not a proposal. Nevertheless, he argued that if San Francisco wants to be a "lively, attractive, safe and sustainable city [it must] be sweet to its pedestrians, sweet to its cyclists."

Photo of Jan Gehl and SPUR Executive Director Gabriel Metcalf by Matthew Roth

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Jan Gehl Reflects on San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf

|
"When I was a visiting professor at Berkeley in the 1980s, I used to come to Fisherman’s Wharf and walk around," Danish urban designer Jan Gehl said Wednesday night, to more than 100 San Franciscans at the Pier 39 Theater near Fisherman’s Wharf. "Now it’s like deja vu; it’s exactly like I remember it 25 […]

Jan Gehl: Gridlocked Streets Are “Not a Law of Nature”

|
It could have been just another gathering of urban idealists, agreeing with each other about how great it would be to have more public space for people, and less for cars. Except last night’s NYC Streets Renaissance event, "A New Vision for the Upper West Side," featured renowned Danish planner Jan Gehl — who, as […]

Plan B: Reallocating Street Space To Buses, Bikes & Peds

|
In a piece from the March issue of Outside Magazine that seems especially relevant today, Tim Sohn writes about public space reform in New York City. His article is accompanied by an illustration of what the future of our city could look like: complete streets with dedicated bus and bike lanes, traffic calming gardens, and […]

DOT Launches Gehl Street Survey Project

|
The New York City Department of Transportation has retained Danish urbanist Jan Gehl’s firm to evaluate city streets and other public spaces. Streetsblog first reported this development as a possibility back in June, when we interviewed Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. Not long after, we got word that Gehl had been hired by the city as a […]

Famed Danish Urbanist Jan Gehl in Town to Consult on PlaNYC

|
The Urbanist Musketeers: Alex Garvin, Jan Gehl and Fred Kent in Copenhagen, Denmark, Sept. 30, 2006. Jan Gehl, the famed Danish urbanist, is in New York City this week where, sources say, he has been hired as a consultant for Mayor Bloomberg’s PlaNYC program. At a presentation to the board of the Regional Plan Association […]