The cities are alive as the people living in them embrace them. Those cities where the urban planners failed to remember that they were working for people and not for cars tend to be gray, unpleasantly noisy, with unpleasant air, etc… Cities are living creatures nurtured both by policy makers and citizens.
Seductive cities are those that have enough public spaces and provide a wide range of cultural offers. Alone these two features are an excuse to draw people into the streets. Open air concerts, performances, festivals and markets, among others are excellent occasions to suit all tastes. These events provide the opportunity to explore new areas of the city, to meet other people and get together with friends and family. Although these could be considered “special occasions”, there are other opportunities to have activities in the city.
People that are fond of outdoor activities that would appreciate more parks, riverbanks, lakes or woods. These can also provide a space for parents to play with their kids, for friends to have a picnic, for lovers to walk and for people to workout. Runners for instance (I include myself here) understandably appreciate green areas and spaces free of cars. Nathan Yau used data from public workouts posted on RunKeeper to create maps of where people run in big cities, no wonder the results show parks and river routes are popular
Buoyant cities are those that are suitable for all. The cities that can entertain young and restless and amuse seniors, while welcoming those with limited mobility are truthfully livable cities.
Getting together people of different ages in the public spaces creates a sense of belonging and a community. This can only be encouraged if the people feel safe and free to move around the city and make it their own.
Public servants can definitely play a role by providing more car-free spaces and streets, more plazas and traffic calming regulations. I witnessed a great example last week.
A small public bookshelf is located in a wide sidewalk Leipzigerstrasse in Frankfurt. It is surrounded by enough places to park bicycles. Additionally, there are some benches surrounding the bookshelf and small bollards fence these.
A man arrived on his bike to the place. He parked his bike and took a large bag with him. He walked to the public bookshelf and refilled it with a whole new collection of books. Some pedestrians walking by stopped and had a look at the available books. A lady came by she took a book and comfortably sat on the bench and started reading.
People value what belongs to them. If there is enough people attracted to a public space the community around it will keep it alive and safe.