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Glasgow should follow Copenhagen's lead in its approach to public spaces

GLASGOW needs to be a city of the future.

It has won the £24m City of the Future prize ("Glasgow is 'city of the future'", The Herald, January 25) . Unfortunately the projects planned look like replicating the George Square debacle, prioritising high-technology gimmicks over functional solutions to the city's problems.

The city of the future already exists and it is called Copenhagen, and the reason it is the city of the future relative to Glasgow is that Glasgow is 40 years behind.

Forty years ago Copenhagen decided to build the city around the requirements of human health and quality of life. Glasgow decided to build the city around cars. The result is that Glasgow has by almost any measure, the lowest quality of life in the developed world. Copenhagen has by almost any measure the highest.

Copenhagen, of course, is not alone. The chief architect of its success is Jan Gehl, who has been commissioned to humanise public space around the world. His greatest achievements are perhaps in New York.

Working with Mayor Bloomberg, Gehl has shut down bits of Broadway Boulevard to cars and turned them into bustling pedestrian malls where millions of people per year stop and have lunch, enjoy a conversation or simply just watch "the ballet of the street".

The results on Broadway Boulevard are a 63% reduction in motorist and passenger injuries and a 35% reduction in pedestrian injuries and an increase in property values on retail rents, up 71% in the first six months.

Broadway Boulevard is a model for how George Square should be developed, and is summarised well in a letter to The Herald by Stephen Downs on the January 24 – the "pedestrian area stretching right up to the front of buildings should be the starting point". None of the competition designs showed such ambition. Similarly Byres Road, as community leaders in the area are recommending, should be pedestrianised.

Glasgow has admittedly responded vigorously to the danger of cars, but by imposing extreme pedestrian calming. The most vulnerable members of society must trudge around vast regimes of barriers and the disabled have their fundamental right of freedom of movement violated. One-way rat runs riddle our communities so that boy racers can exert their status in vastly over-powered machines.

It is not pedestrians who need calmed. The way to build the city of the future is to make walking and cycling easier and by restraining cars.

We do not need apps informing us that "your bus has been cancelled" or "there is no cycle route to your destination". What we need is simple and low-tech; a fully permeable city in which we can be confident that we can attain our destination by active travel means.

Norman Armstrong,

3/1 47 Braeside Street,

Glasgow.

Contextual targeting label: 
Automotive

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