I love this book. It is stuffed full of interesting graphs, food for thought and lots of photos showing both good and bad design in action around the world. Starting from a premise brilliantly summarised by Richard Rogers in the Foreword:
"Well-designed neighbourhoods inspire the people who live in them, whilst poorly-designed cities brutalise their citizens."
Gehl goes on to show how making cities more accessible to their citizens - more pedestrianised, more bicycle friendly, more active and interesting ground floor frontages, even just adding more benches - can make cities safer, more healthy and more attractive to both businesses and people.
What I found so very enjoyable about this book is the explanations included in the text about why certain spaces appeal to us or don't. There is a human scale for what makes us comfortable, the distances at which we can hear, see and be involved in city activity all impact on why some streets and buildings `work' and others clearly don't. Adapting cities from human-scale streets to car-scale roads over the last fifty years has led to disconnected citizens and cities without hearts or souls. Gehl showcases schemes from all around the world which have focused on making cities more natural and welcoming and rolling back some of that car-obsessed development: Melbourne insists on active, open shopfronts instead of closed, shuttered frontages, New York doubled bicycle use in 2 years by adopting safer roads that planned for more bicycle use, Copenhagen has pedestrianised much of the city centre and thrives as a result.
Overall this is a generally optimistic (but solidly realistic) book that shows what can be achieved when designers plan for the people will use their buildings and spaces, not generic users... and what has happened when they refused to.