Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Copenhagen vs London

I defy anyone to watch this film about Copenhagen and tell me with a straight face that London makes better use of its public spaces.

The film documents Copenhagen's transition from a traffic-dominated city to one oriented towards people. Car parks were converted into public squares, and streets were pedestrianised. The architect Jan Gehl comments, "when these people-friendly schemes go in, the businesses actually thrive". When the pedestrian areas were first proposed, retailers were against the idea, but after, it became clear that these had become the best commercial locations in the city.
Unfortunately, in today's London in this age of austerity, the priority has to be creating jobs, not doing fluffy things that stifle enterprise like pedestrianising places like Parliament Square. Or is it? In order to create jobs, you need enterprises to set up shop in your city. And for that to happen, your city has to appeal as a place to live as well as a place to work.

In this research, Red Associates, a strategy consultancy, discovered that "the future of a city is no longer exclusively dependent on low taxes. The new trend is to sell a city on its people and their lifestyle."
"Copenhagen is a place that trumps many others when it comes to quality of life", they claim. "It’s expensive and cold but it’s so clean that you can even swim in the ocean by the airport and happily raise a family without many financial constraints."
Quality of life in a city is clearly important for corporations seeking to relocate employees and their families on long-term assignments. And Copenhagen ranks 9th on Mercer Consulting's Quality of Living index. London is 38th.

Boris needs to take note. Maximum motor traffic flow and quality of life do not go together. Copenhagen proves there is another, better, way - better for people, and better for businesses.


  1. I'd nominate Oxford Street for pedestrianisation. Walking the street or crossing the road is hellish. Ironically easier to drive to Westfield for a calmer pedestrianised shopping experience.

  2. Where does the Oxford St Association stand on this? I'd guess they'd be in favour.