Livable Streets Where People Live: Policy Lessons on Broadening the Civic Role of Residential Streets from Munich, Rotterdam, Copenhagen, and Malmo
The purpose of this paper is to document proven policies and practices from European cities that make local streets more “livable,” or attractive places, but that nonetheless meet the essential mobility requirement to move people and needs. A “local street” is a street that primarily provides access to local residences or businesses and the activities created by these adjacent uses. This research does not produce another catalog of street designs from Europe, but rather learns from local planners, designers, and engineers about the strategies that have enabled their cities — Munich (Germany), Rotterdam (Netherlands), Copenhagen (Denmark), and Malmo (Sweden) — to broaden the function of streets.
This research finds that livable streets in Europe are supported by policies that ensure residential streets are designed to give priority to people rather than automobile traffic, to fit the scale and pace of humans over cars, and to recognize the importance of “sojourning” — in other words, opportunities to interact or linger. The result is that residents value the social aspects of their streets as much as the safety and physical amenities. In order to translate these lessons to U.S. cities, planners, engineers, and citizens will need to shift their understanding of the function of streets.