Humans are really just small walking animals. That’s how the architect Jan Gehl describes the way city planners ought to think about public spaces.
“Knowing about Homo sapiens—and the kind of creature he is—has been a very important key to understanding why some places work and some places don’t,” Gehl said in the 2011 documentary, Urbanized. “We are really talking about the urban habitat of Homo sapiens. It’s the same Homo sapiens all over the world. Cultural circumstances differ, economic circumstances differ, climactic circumstances differ, but basically, we are the same little walking animal.”
In Oslo, where the walking animal is also a driving animal, a bicycling animal, and a bus-taking animal, officials are pushing to ban cars from the main downtown area altogether. The idea is to add nearly 40 miles of bike lanes and make the city center car-free, which would in turn make Oslo the first major European city to place a “comprehensive and permanent ban” on cars, Reuters reported.
The idea is bold, but its effects on daily life may not be as dramatic as they sound. About 1,000 people live in the area the ban will encompass, with tens of thousands more traveling in and out of the region daily, according to several news outlets.