Tuesday, April 5, 2011

What do the world's most romantic cities have in common?

by Kaid Benfield 
    Rome (by: Ed Yourdon, creative commons license)
      Prague (c2010 FK Benfield)  Venice (by: Ian Britton, creative commons license)  
      Rome (by: Ed Yourdon, creative commons license)  Paris (c2008 FK Benfield)
    Prague.  Venice.  Rome.  Paris.  These are some destinations that perennially make "ten-most-romantic cities” lists.  I just looked at three such sites, and all four cities were consensus picks.  Vienna and Lisbon each made two of the lists.
    What are some of the things they have in common?

    Strong sense of place anchored by historic preservation
    Lively, walkable, diverse downtowns
    Compact development patterns
    Extensive and well-used public transportation
    Great public spaces for lively human interaction
    Parks and quiet places mixed in with urbanity
    Great traditional neighborhoods with a strong sense of community
    Welcoming to people of diverse cultures

    Sound familiar? These are the characteristics of smart growth and sustainable communities, exactly the elements we want more of in America’s towns and cities. My NRDC colleagues and I just concluded a sustainable communities planning retreat, and these were among the concepts that came up repeatedly.

    People fall in love with these cities, and in them, in part because they are so conducive to nourishing the human spirit. And, as I have pointed out on more than the odd occasion, these characteristics support environmental sustainability, too.

    So today, let’s celebrate romantic places, and make more of our cities and communities more worthy of the label.

    Move your cursor over the images for credit and license information.  This post was adapted and updated from one I wrote last year, featuring a slightly different list of cities.
    Kaid Benfield writes (almost) daily about community, development, and the environment.  For more posts, see his blog's home page.


    Monocle Magazine's list of the World's Most Liveable Cities. Here's the top 20 for 2010.

    01 Munich
    02 Copenhagen
    03 Zurich
    04 Tokyo
    05 Helsinki
    06 Stockholm
    07 Paris
    08 Vienna
    09 Melbourne
    10 Madrid
    11 Berlin
    12 Sydney
    13 Honolulu
    14 Fukuoka 
    15 Geneva
    16 Vancouver
    17 Barcelona
    18 Oslo
    19 Montreal
    20 Auckland

    We'll always say that the bicycle is the most important and effective tool in our liveable toolbox. It's interesting to consider that all the cities in blue have respectable levels of Citizen Cyclists gracing their streets and cycle tracks. 

    The cities marked in orange are working at increasing levels of bicycle traffic. At the very least we hear a lot about them in internet buzz. The three remaining are probably thinking about it, considering it, working a bit at it, but we don't feel the vibrations too often on the bicycle culture Richter scale.

    Point? Bicycles feature prominently on the urban landscape of liveable cities. They are an integral part of the fabric of many of these cities.