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Driven off the streets

The main street through Copenhagen city centre was the first to be pedestrianised back in 1962. 'Reconquering' the city's public spaces continued through the 1970s, helped by the world oil crisis in 1973 which gave fresh impetus to push back car use.

Today 18 squares in the core of city have been stripped of parking spaces and 80% of city centre movement is now foot traffic.

People are encouraged to stop and sit on 1,500 benches and 5,000 sidewalk cafe chairs. The story is tracked in Public Spaces Public Life written by Gehl and his School of Architecture Colleague Lars Gemstoe in 1996.

The future in Copenhagen presents fresh challenges for Gehl in his work with the city council.

Car use in the city is going up for the first time in a generation as the Oresund Crossing brings cars across the sea from Malmo in Sweden while attracting new businesses to the city. Completion of the Copenhagen metro in 2002 will help but politicians are also considering increasing provision for cars in the city. A plan to build a huge underground car park beneath one of the city centre streets was defeated on the grounds that traffic would clog up residential streets to get to the car park.

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