car-free Sunday

 

Yesterday was the Copenhagen half marathon and also “car free Sunday” so traffic was kept out of the city for much of the day.

It was a great opportunity to see many of the major buildings without the distraction of cars around them but it also emphasised just how much space, even in a historic city, is now taken up by tarmac … roads and squares look so wide and strangely bare without traffic. You also realised that it’s not just the space taken up by the traffic but that people are pushed to the margins of open space and in some places, without cars or, at least, with less traffic, there would be much more space for trees and, in some areas, space even for large-scale planting of large trees. 

On Sunday you could also see just how many lights and signs and road markings are required for the traffic. None of this should be a surprise, I suppose, but still, to see the centre of the city without traffic,  I realised just how much public space is dominated by cars.

There are illustrations from the 18th century showing people in all their finery strolling along broad streets inside the old city embankments … but did people then complain about the clatter of carriages and carts and the smell of the horses and the manure everywhere or did they just accept that as the price to be paid for living in a bustling prosperous place?