The Choreography of an Urban Intersection

“Think of a city and what comes to mind? Its streets”. The oft-quoted words of Jane Jacobs from her book, *The Death and Life of Great American Cities *ring true even in 2013. Throughout time, there have been key urbanists who are not satisfied with municipal jobs, tucked away from the citizens. These are the urban superheros. The almost mythic figures like Jacobs or William Whyte who intimately know our cities. A little over a year ago, we blogged about an exciting new project to honour these thinkers’ legacies. We put their methods into action in novel and exciting ways. We study the bicycle users’ intricacies on a greater scale than ever before. Enter a simple video camera, an ordinary intersection, and more than 16,000 bicycle users. “The Bicycle Choreography of an Urban Intersection–an anthropological study” was born. Over 200 hours were logged by anthropologist Agnete Suhr as she studied 12 hours of video footage from our camera’s vantage point above two streets: Godthåbsvej and Nordre Fasanvej. Pedro Madruga logged hundreds of his own hours making sense of the raw data. The result? A delicious mélange of anthropological observation, video ethnography, and quantitative sense-making. There is something ground-breaking here. It is one thing to advocate for people-centered planning. Quite another to get our hands dirty and investigate methods to better accomplish this feat. We classify and categorize the bicycle users’ “desire lines” throughout the intersection. Where they go, but also *how* they get there. Are bicycle users really the two-wheeled tyrants that popular media and common conceptions pin them as? Yup. We’re closing up shop…Just kidding. Three major “types” of bicycle users emerge, separating the steady stream of bicycles into a diverse and differentiated bunch. Each “type” uses the urban theater differently, like the people William Whyte captures on film in the plaza of the Seagram Building in New York City. Now, in this three part series, we are proud to present you with the study’s most pertinent findings. Stay tuned for the full document’s unveiling in the last segment. This is no fancifully-designed paperweight. We hope that traffic engineers, city planners, flaneurs of all sorts, urban fanciers, and elected officials alike will take interest and make our ‘Copenhagenize Fixes’ a reality. read the full article: