All of my adventures these days come through reading (and taking neighborhood walks). I just finished Clay Grubb’s Creating the Urban Dream. In it I came across the term: Copenhagenize. Instant enchantment!
Title Image of bicycles in Copenhagen: heatheronhertravels, Wunderstock
Copenhagen is the world’s #1 bicycle city. Part of Grubb’s vision for the urban dream is to turn American cities into bicycle-friendly spaces.
Grubb writes: “In the fall of 2017, I got the opportunity to visit Copenhagen, Denmark … to experience the best in bicycle infrastructure. Nearly three-quarters of the residents in that nation’s capital commute by bike. They do so because it is faster. I realized how much we could reduce costs for urban housing and other developments if we didn’t have to park so many cars. Not to mention, there would be a dramatic improvement in health and overall quality of life.”
Get this. Today we have close to 2 billion parking spaces in America. For 250 million cars. An 8-to-1 ratio. Building parking garages drives up the costs of housing.
Copenhagenize: The Term
Grubb is not the originator of this magical term. Rather it is the name of a Danish design company. According to its website, it is the “go-to team” for all things urban bike related. Bike culture, planning, traffic and communication.
Visit: Copenhagenize Design Company
They have worked with cities all over Europe, Canada and the U.S.
Grubb hired this company to help in the redesign of road layouts and bike connectivity in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Grubb Properties was in charge of renovating the Glen Lennox neighborhood. And Clay saw the opportunity to put his bike-friendly vision into practice.
From Suburban to Urban Dream
As I was reading the book I began to see Grubb as the 21st-century Levitt. Indeed, Grubb himself references Abraham Levitt. And the phenomenon he created in the 1940s and 1950s. Namely, planned communities that came to symbolize Suburbia and the white picket fence dream.
The housing provided by places like Levittown eased the post-WWII housing crisis. The fly in the ointment? Grubb clearly points out that Levitt instructed his agents to write no contracts for African Americans. Not even veterans.
Fast forward to 2020. Grubb argues that we once again face a housing crisis. But we cannot solve it with 1950s solutions. We have to look not to the suburbs but to the urbs. Urban spaces most easily provide the sustainable and affordable housing we need. And urban communities work best when they welcome a diversity of people and income levels. And lots of foot and bicycle traffic.
Naturally I loved two of Grubb’s main points. One, embrace urban living. Two, say good-bye to car culture. In 2005 I gave up my car. And have not regretted it for a moment.
In 2019 I moved into an 800-square-foot condo in a downtown tower. And am loving every minute. I mention the square footage because, alas, it is too big to qualify for Tiny House status. (Tiny Houses max out at 400 square feet.)
But I also subscribe to Grubb’s third point. Do more with less space. I was struck when Grubb mentioned that builders used to have to design space around three-foot-deep televisions. He notes that today’s TVs allow for better use of space. And many millennials don’t have a TV at all. I’m far from a millennial, but the changes in my living arrangements led me to do away with a TV as well.
This post was written by Julie Tetel Andresen