Category Archives: John Massengale

Vester Voldgade – Our Street of the Day / A Street Design Supplement*

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Vester Voldgade, Copenhagen. Looking north, across Ny Kongensgade.

VESTER VOLDGADE, KØBENHAVN (“West Rampart Street, Copenhagen”) is interesting both for its current condition and and its original state. It’s called “Voldgade” because like the boulevards of Paris, it was built where the old city wall stood (the French word “boulevard” comes from the word “bulwark”). As in Paris, allées were planted on the old ramparts, but in Copenhagen the result was different.

Parisian boulevards became tree-lined, symmetrical streets (planted in patterns composed of squares, the landscape architect Douglas Duany has pointed out). In an old photograph of a section of Vester Voldgade then called “Filosofgangen” (Philosopher Path), we can see that there was a street next to the tree-covered ramparts, with all the trees on the rampart side of the road in what looks like a naturalistic planting.

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Filosofgangen (Vester Voldgade). Looking north in 1880.

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“All the great cities and towns are congested”

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The Boulevard St. Germain on the Left Bank of Paris in 2011. One of the fabled streets of Bohemian Paris, today it is a street that many pedestrians flee.


“All the great cities and towns are congested” is an urbanist trope that needs to be retired. It comes, I believe, from arguing against traffic engineers when they talk about Level of Service rather than observing the best places.

I was in London the day their Congestion Zone started. I was staying in a hotel on High Holborn, a major through street that continues Oxford Street (or vice versa, depending on where you’re coming from). The Central Line on the London Underground was undergoing repairs and wasn’t operating.

The day before the congestion zone started, Oxford Street and High Holborn were jammed even more than usual with buses, taxis, trucks, and cars. You could walk any distance long or short in either direction from Oxford Circus or Tottenham Court Road and know that walking would be faster than taking a bus. They were traveling along stuck nose to tail in traffic. The problem was the speed the buses were going, not time spent waiting for a bus.

That day traffic flowed like water in an oversized pipe. It was so pleasant, and such a pleasant contrast to the day before. It was the way cities should be. You could walk without being buffeted by noise and diesel smell, and you didn’t have to wait at every crossing for traffic to pass by.

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The High Street in Marlborough, a country market town in Wiltshire, England. In the last 10 years, many British roads have been overwhelmed by an enormous increase in traffic.

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Slow Street of the Day — the rue Norvins in Paris

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Photo courtesy of Galina Tahchieva @ DPZ

ALMOST ALL STREETS IN PARIS now have speed limits of 20 or 12.5 miles per hour (30 or 20 kph). The rue Norvins in Montmartre was already slower  than that. Why? Not because of a city-set speed limit or police enforcement, but because of the natural design speed of the street.

The narrow roadway, the poor lines of sight, the rough cobblestones, the unforgiving stone bollards at the edge of the street, the lack of traffic signs (there’s only one, which limits cars to those belonging to residents between 3 pm and 2 am), and most of all, the free-range pedestrians in the middle of the street—these all produce a space that makes drivers unacomfortable driving quickly.

English authorities are introducing a number of shared space streets there. I haven’t seen most of them, so I can’t say much about the Sea of Change film that makes the proposal that new shared space streets in England are frequently unsafe for the blind and disabled. That’s obviously an important issue—if we are going to make slow streets that use slow speed and a lack of the traffic engineer’s separation of car and pedestrian to make safer streets, then we need to make them safer for everyone.
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All the Streets Illustrated in Street Design

AN ALPHABETICAL LIST of all the streets illustrated in Street Design. You can also download a sortable Excel list by clicking here.

Air Street. London, UK
Alta Vista Terrace, Chicago, IL
Arcade Santo Stefano, Bologna, IT
avenue d’Iena, Paris, FR
avenue de l’Opéra, Paris, FR
avenue Foch, Paris, FR
avenue Montaigne, Paris, FR
Aviles Street, St. Augustine, FL
Avinguda Diagonal, Barcelona, ES
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