Designing streets as public spaces in Northern climate cities

Is it possible to plan people-centric streets and friendly urban environments in Northern cities that face rough winters?

The answer is a resounding YES ― at least, according to the Danes. Like their Viking ancestors before them, Louise Kielgast and Kristian S. Villadsen, part of the world-renowned design firm Gehl Architects, came and conquered the hearts and minds of many urbanists and urbanites across Montréal.

For those of you who missed the opportunity to see these super-hot Scandinavians in person, due to illness, school work, or violin lessons, you are in luck. Here is the webcast of their public conference held on February 16th, 2010 at McGill University.

So is it time we Copenhagenise Montréal?


  1. I’ve only watched the first half… But as I sit in a café at Rachel and St Laurent while listening to his comments, i can’t help but feel immense gratitude for the city we have, in parts. The ballet of cars, biks, pedestrians – tall buildings, small shops, squares…something to look at at every corner, smells galore! Montreal need not look to copenhagen – we have it right here: the elements of fantastic urban design. The difference is: we need to articulate it in our planning – categorize and truly understand what we have here, and why.

  2. Thanks for this. I regretted having missed this talk so I’m very happy it was recorded and posted.

  3. I could only stay for the first part but was very impressed with the determination of Copenhageners (?)to not let winter force them indoors. I really like the idea of ensuring that bike paths are cleared of snow first.

  4. I’m not so sure I ever want to see so many people on the bike lanes I use. It will take forever to get anywhere. On the other hand, with so much traffic, the pedestrians can’t use the lanes as they like to do here.

  5. Thanks for recording/posting. Very glad to have been able to take all the information he has presented here. I agree with Alain, those bike lanes are frightening!! But I think they probably go at safer speeds than some of the cyclists here.

  6. Alain and Yeye,

    Bicycles have different operating characteristics from other types of vehicles, and it will take time to create appropriate infrastructure. Certain European countries have extensive experience developing safe and functional bicycle lanes, but the idea that bicycles are a legitimate mode of transportation is only starting here. Our bike lanes here are still being designed by ‘traffic engineers’ who do not yet understand/appreciate how bicycles move.

    One of the things that has been widely recognized elsewhere is that bi-directional bike lanes are dangerous when there is any kind of bicycle volume. Instead of having bi-directional lanes, it is common to have parallel bike lanes in the same direction: a fast lane for people who want to travel quickly in single file, and a “lover’s lane” where traffic is more irregular and bicyclists can travel side-by-side.

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