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

NYC Gets Its First-Ever Physically-Separated Bike Path

|
The Department of Transportation revealed plans for New York City’s first-ever physically-separated bike lane, or "cycle track," at a Manhattan Community Board 4 meeting last night. The new bike path will run southbound on Ninth Avenue from W. 23rd to W. 16th Street in Manhattan. Unlike the typical Class II on-street bike lane in which […]

Tonight: See the Blueprint for a New Upper West Side

|
Streets designed for safe, accessible, and equitable use. That is the vision of the "Blueprint for the Upper West Side: A Roadmap for Truly Livable Streets," to be unveiled tonight by the Upper West Side Streets Renaissance Campaign. The product of one year of community-driven planning, in consultation with urbanist legends Jan Gehl and Donald […]

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 […]

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 for Grand Street Cycle Track Features New Design Treatment

|
DOT has unveiled plans for a Grand Street cycle track [PDF] that bear the fingerprints of Danish planner Jan Gehl. It would be Manhattan’s first cross-town protected bike path. Grand Street is narrower than Ninth Avenue, where the existing protected path runs. Whereas the Ninth Avenue cycle track uses signal timing to prevent conflicts between […]

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 […]