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BOOK REVIEW

CITIES FOR PEOPLE Jan Gehl


Man, besides his basic need for food, clothing and shelter, requires company. People have a constant need for new information about other people, about life and about the surrounding society. Throughout history cities have been acting as meeting places for people. Today cities are rapidly growing and with the invasion of cars, human spaces are shrinking as we keep on increasing the length of our roads to accommodate these vehicles. The author talks about pedestrianism of the cities. Making our cities a lively, safe, sustainable and healthy city. The potential of these utilised through walking, cycling and staying in city spaces. The author illustrates these through examples from Copenhagen, Venice, New York, etc. Cities are meeting places where ideas, thoughts and conversations are exchanged. The author talks about the importance of senses and scale in city spaces. The various types of communication distances ie, intimate, personal, social, public. One perceives differently at various distances. Walking brings to detail various aspects of the city as we see and observe everything at a very low speed. While driving our understanding of the place is greatly limited. Intense contacts between people take place at short distances. Large buildings and spaces give an impersonal and formal urban environment. At the same time vehicles shatter the scale by taking up much of the city space. They become obstacles to the walking crowd in the city. The author significantly talks about making our cities, as mentioned earlier; lively, safe, sustainable and healthy. We can greatly stick to the notion that PEOPLE COME WHERE PEOPLE ARE. The treatment of the citys edges, particularly the ground floor can make the city lively like having more doors, more displays, being more transparent, the facades having seating spaces, etc. An active ground floor can contribute to a lively edge as a staying zone. When there is more activity, there are more people hence a feeling of security. Safety from traffic is also important especially for the bicyclers and the pedestrians. Cities can be made sustainable by improving walking, bicycling and dependence on public transportation which in turn contributes to the health factor.

Cities must provide good conditions for people to walk, stand, sit, watch, listen and talk. Pedestrians take the shortest path to reach their destination ie the desired path. They like to walk in interesting lively areas. The natural psychology of the pedestrian is to avoid steps & stairs and under & overpasses. People need good places to sit and interact, stay for a while, observe the activities, take in the weather in cities. Developing cities have problems in traffic infrastructure, housing etc. Cars and motorcycles are locked in endless traffic making the life of a pedestrian intolerable. The author gives an example of Curitiba where the BRTS system of transport was introduced. But although it was a success there, in some of our cities in India due to inadequate road widths, may not work out as there has to be a dedicated lane just for these buses. Through this book, the author tries to give us various planning and design options where we look at the city through the human scale besides the larger scale that we usually take. How humans behave in a city or a public space is different from what we perceive through the larger scale.

Sini K and Greeshma P