What happens when you take away sidewalks, lanes and all the other things that make up a street and stick people, bikes, and cars into it to fend for themselves? Will it work? Will it be dangerous?
Yes it works. No it’s not dangerous.
Old town Copenhagen is home to several of these unique democratic street havens. These streets are by far my favorite roads in the world. As chaotic as they sound, they are the most beautifully orchestrated spaces one will ever find. Something beautiful spawns when you take away the rules placed by infrastructure and let the individual navigate the streets to the best of their ability - the instinctual guidebook kicks in.
Pedestrians have free reign over the streets. Fast walkers tend to be in the street center while window shoppers line the rims. Bikers will swerve past pedestrians respectfully and elegantly. At worst, the biker will either dismount and walk the bike until a clearing appears or they will ring their bell to inform the people of their presence. When a car is introduced something magical happens. The car – usually the big man on campus – becomes submissive. The motor vehicle is the thing that does not belong. Cars using these urban roads know the drive will be slow and difficult. They must yield to pedestrians and bikers and if they can pick up any speed they will most likely experience a yield soon after.
The symphony of these streets is unique. Like perfectly timed choreography, people weave in and out of each other with little disturbance. Everyone belongs on these streets and they run with shocking fluidity. Copenhagen sets the standard for well behaved democratic streets where all modes of transportation are welcome and respected.