22 June 2011

Bugging Me

Montreal Kids
It is quite extraordinary really. I just can't seem to get Montreal out of my head.

I've traveled the world, living in 10-odd countries and visiting quite a few others. There are many places I love and I always love to return to Copenhagen. There are other places I'd like to live, sure, but coming back home is always a pleasure.

I can visit other cities like Amsterdam or Paris or Barcelona - or other cities on an equal footing - and feel at home there.

What is it, then, about Montreal that is so fascinating? What is it that makes the city so damned liveable? Fair enough, I'm mostly talking about the Plateau and neighbourhoods like Mile End, but it is really quite extraordinary how the streets are alive.

This time upon returning to Copenhagen I'm looking around the city and seeing it quite differently. It seems somehow dead. Quite an epiphany, as you could well imagine. There are many aspects of life here that are wonderful and gorgeous and that I can't live without. The bicycle culture adds volume upon volume to the urban library and the neighourhoods are certainly liveable - some more than others. But the streets seem empty compared to Montreal. There, children hang out on the sidewalks, using the streets like they were meant to be used. The atmosphere is relaxed.

While in the city I tweeted things like "Montreal makes Berlin look like a gated community somewhere outside Phoenix". Berlin is the role model for so many cities and it is a fantastic place. But Montreal has something else.

The concept and definition of Copenhagenizing, relating to bicycle culture and traffic, is certainly something special and something worth exporting. It is something that would fit in well to Montreal.

But talking about 'Copenhagenizing' as some larger urban planning movement is not really something I subscribe to.

This city has many things to learn from other cities. Montreal, certainly. As well as Barcelona and Berlin and Amsterdam. Too many things to be set up on a pedestal for world-leading liveable streets. In the urban planning perspective, Copenhagen needs a great deal of copenhagenizing, instead of all this overrated urban planning focus on Danes waving their magical wands to transform other cities.

We can inspire Montreal bicycle-wise, absolutely, but Montreal could teach my city a great deal of things about making the city a nicer place to live.

It is still bugging me. Montreal is a riddle and one I wish to solve.