Melbourne: A Pedestrian Paradise

Streetfilms’ Clarence Eckerson recently made the journey to Melbourne, Australia, where he found a "new world city" redesigned for people-oriented development and mobility. Writes Clarence:

Melbourne is simply wonderful. You can get lost in the nooks and crannies that permeate the city. As you walk you feel like free-flowing air with no impediments to your enjoyment. For a city with nearly 4 million people, the streets feel much like the hustle and bustle of New York City but without omnipresent danger and stress cars cause.

There is an invaluable lesson here. In the early 90s, Melbourne was hardly a haven for pedestrian life until Jan Gehl was invited there to undertake a study and publish recommendations on street improvements and public space. Ten years after the survey’s findings, Melbourne was a remarkably different place thanks to sidewalk widenings, copious tree plantings, a burgeoning cafe culture, and various types of car restrictions on some streets. Public space and art abound. And all of this is an economic boom for business.

In the film we hear from some of the prime movers in the Melbourne livable streets universe, who explain what has come about during a decade dedicated to improving the public realm.

  • Gawd those poor people. Why would anyone want to live like that? Forced out of their super comfy private automobiles and having to choose whether to get around on train, bus, bike, taxi, or… god I can hardly say it… by walking. The money they must save! What a nightmare. Ugh, imagine having to sit outside in beautiful weather and enjoying life? No thank you. I didn’t even see a single smog check place in that whole video! What a waste.

    Thank god we live in Los Angeles guys.

  • L.A.’s “Working Class” Reporter: Looks like nothing but a bunch of commies! What are they all doing out in the streets? Planning another strike? Shut them down. I bet all those people are illegal aliens. The whole thing smacks of an unsafe social engineering experiment and global gentrification.

    L.A. Technocrat: The market places resrouces at optimal distances to distribution point demand sites along the axis of reduce travel times. This style of street design reduces accessibility to consumer level throughput mechanisms.

    L.A. Politician: We need to bring relief to commuters by widening these congested bottlenecks with inceased improvements to ATSAC signal sychronization timing. Commuters are exhausted with congestion, and I am here to offer them a new car lane to congest.

    In other words, even though this type of public policy works, we’re going to ignore it.

    What would it take to make L.A.’s politics support street planning and design like this? Enthusiasm exists for this stuff – but elected officials use these planning ideas at their own peril.

    Where is the Liveable Streets voting block?

  • piocan9

    Arcades and Outdoor Cafes. Let’s gather round and start praying for this stuff.

  • piocan9

    Arcades and Outdoor Cafes. With the money I save not driving I’ll be able to eat well.

    Let’s gather round and start praying for this stuff.

  • Clarence

    I am telling everyone, if Melbourne was in the U.S. I would already have packed my bags and moved there. It is that nice.

  • Damien Newton

    If I did a comment of the week like Curbed and (I think) LAist do, I think half the posts on this thread would be there. I’ve been laughing since I started reading them.



Can Snow Inspire Better Streets? It Already Has.

Sneckdowns are having a big moment. In case you’ve missed the viral blog posts and major press coverage, sneckowns (a contraction of “snowy neckdowns” popularized by Streetfilms’ Clarence Eckerson Jr. and Streetsblog founding editor Aaron Naparstek) are leftover snow piles on city streets that show space that could easily be reclaimed for pedestrians. As a visual tool, […]

Danish Architect Jan Gehl on Good Cities for Walking

Editor’s note: Streetsblog San Francisco is thrilled to present a three-part series this week by renowned Danish architect and livable streets luminary Jan Gehl. The pieces are excerpts are from his book, “Cities for People” published by Island Press. This is part two. Donate to Streetsblog SF and you’ll qualify to win a copy of […]