Public life is what people create when they connect with each other in public spaces—the streets, plazas, parks, and city spaces between buildings. Public life is about the everyday activities that people naturally take part in when they spend time with each other outside their homes, workplaces, and cars. Public life studies analyze observed human behavior in shared spaces to inform policy, regulations, and temporary or permanent public space design interventions.
The District of Columbia is fortunate to have a wealth of park spaces, squares, and pedestrian-friendly streets that provide opportunities for a vibrant and rich public life. As the District grows, ensuring that all groups and people can enjoy public life in our shared spaces is an important part of achieving an inclusive city.
Public life is a driver of:
- Physical and mental health
- Sustainable mobility
- Social benefits
- Culture, identity, and sense of place
- Economic Development
The methodology for studying public life applies techniques developed by the Gehl Institute as adapted by the DC Office of Planning. Analysis can consist of assessing:
- urban quality in terms of its protection, accessibility, comfort, and enjoyment,
- counts of pedestrian and bicycle movements through public space,
- mapping stationary activities of the individuals and groups who are staying or lingering in public space, and
- intercept surveys that capture perceptions and desires of the people using public space.
For more information, contact Thor Nelson, Senior Urban Designer at (202) 741-5241 or by email at [email protected].