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What’s So Good about Copenhagen?

For the second year in a row, 8 80 Cities and Knight Foundation will host 28 senior level decision-makers from 13 different Knight cities for an intensive study tour of Copenhagen. Participants range from mayors, to commissioners, to foundation presidents, to community leaders –all of whom have the will and capacity to catalyze major changes in their cities. But of all the places in the world, why Copenhagen? What’s so good about it anyway?

Is it their renowned network of protected bike lanes? Is it the fact that Denmark is consistently ranked as one of the happiest countries on earth? Yes, but no.

Consider these two simple words instead: public life.

Public life refers to the aspects of social life that occur in public, out in the open, as opposed to the private interaction that occurs inside homes, businesses, and other private spaces. The richness of a city’s public life is often a function of how safe, healthy, inclusive, and liveable it is for its residents.

Since the 1960s, Copenhagen has done a phenomenal job of applying this public life lens in the process of transforming the city from a sleepy, modernist, car-oriented society to a place with public spaces teeming with people of all ages, pedestrianized shopping districts, year-round outdoor café culture, world-class biking and walking infrastructure, and more.

The participants will be meeting and learning about public life from Copenhagen’s best and brightest urbanists, including Tina Saaby (Chief Architect of City of Copenhagen), Morten Kabell (Mayor of Technical and Environmental Administration), Gehl Architects, COBE Architects, Cycling Embassy of Denmark, Copenhagen Solutions Lab, among others.

8 80 Cities and Knight expect that the participants will return to their cities with fresh new ideas and approaches to enriching public life. If the amazing accomplishments by Knight cities who went on last year’s Copenhagen Study Tour can serve as any indication, we have a lot of exciting developments to look forward to from this year’s participating cities also.

Akron, Charlotte, Columbus, Detroit, Grand Forks, Gulfport, Lexington, Long Beach, Macon, Miami, San Jose, Tallahassee, and West Palm Beach: get ready! Your cities are about to be transformed.



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