Rolfsgatan: Ode to a livable street

The first thing you should know is that this street would probably not be built this way if it was built today. The southern end of Rolfsgatan is a picturesque two blocks in Malmo’s South Sofielund neighborhood with decorative pavers and ornamental light posts lined by quaint single-family homes. This historic neighborhood was built in the 1920s on what was then the outskirts of town.

Today, if you were to place a pin directly in the center of Malmo, it would land somewhere close to South Sofielund. This proximity offers a very strategic advantage to residents making it possible to reach any other place in the municipality by bicycle in less than 30 minutes.

Rolfsgatan is a very narrow roadway – only 14 feet including on-street parking on one side and a skinny 3-foot sidewalk – which makes it awkward to maneuver a car along.  It exemplifies a street built at a human-scale for movement at a human-pace. It serves as a north-south bikeway and offers full permeability for people on foot or bike but it is closed to through motorized traffic. The bikeway links up to a heavily traveled off-street pathway just south of Rolfsgatan.

Lönngatan, a street that carries around 15,000 cars per day and four bus lines, divides South and North Sofielund.  Despite the heavy traffic, cycling conditions on Lönngatan are quite comfortable thanks to a wide two-way cycle track that runs along the south side. Strategically placed bollards or railings at the entry points to the intersecting streets allow for easy access for people on foot or two-wheels. All six blocks south of this dividing line have been closed to motor vehicle (including Rolfsgatan) to protect the neighborhood from cut-through traffic. The result is a place that welcomes all human-powered forms of travel.

Following the end of WWII, the city began constructing massive apartment complexes to accommodate and attract more residents. Quickly, the historic part of Sofielund was sandwiched between densely populated areas and the city center. As was common with housing complexes built in this era, the immediate surrounding areas experienced rapid decline giving this part of town a lasting image as havens for crime and drugs. This negative perception endures to this day.

Still, based on the cars in some of the driveways, it is clear that many residents have the means to move to the more affluent western portion of the City, if they wanted to. What is unclear is how concerns about security affect the livability of this particular street.

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About Denver Igarta

This blog was established to document my search for streets that my 5-year old can play near without my constant supervision. Where kids can live active lives and learn independence. My quest began when I was selected as an Urban and Regional Policy Fellow by the German Marshall Fund, for info: gmfus.org/cdp/fellowships. I am a multi-modal transportation planner for the City of Portland (OR), America's sustainable transportation capital. SHORT BIO/PROJECT DESCRIPTION Denver Igarta (October-November 2011), Urban Planner, City of Portland Bureau of Transportation Project: Livable Streets Where People Live: Fostering People-Friendly Streets by De-emphasizing Automobile Traffic in Residential Areas Cities: Munich, Rotterdam, Copenhagen, Malmö Denver Igarta is an urban planner with the Transportation Bureau of the City of Portland. He works on a broad range of transportation policy, street design initiatives and pedestrian, bicycle and freight planning efforts. He recently served as one of the principal authors of Portland's new bicycle plan. He is currently staffing two “active transportation” projects: a rails-with-trails project along the Banfield Freeway and a local street system plan for one of the state's most diverse neighborhoods. He performed his graduate studies at the University of Dortmund, Germany and the University of the Philippines and holds a Master of Science in Regional Development Planning. Portland is struggling to reverse generations of auto-oriented development patterns and make neighborhood streets more “livable” (people-friendly) by restoring their multimodal and placemaking functions. Mr. Igarta's research will evaluate how cities in Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Sweden have enacted policies to restore the multiple functions of public streets through traffic management, green infrastructure and giving priority to sustainable travel modes. He will meet with local practitioners, policymakers and civic leaders involved in transportation planning, traffic safety and neighborhood livability projects, street design, and implementation of multi-modal traffic policies. The ultimate aim of the study is to compile a set of best practices and policies implemented in European cities that have broadened the role of residential streets beyond automobile mobility. Additional focus will be given to understanding how acceptable policy tradeoffs are determined within city agencies and the level of public support for measures that restrict car movements, such as reduced speed zones, bicycle streets, shared spaces, residents-only streets and residential parking restrictions.
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