Bike highways, dense walkable cities and a policy focus on improving the quality of life are lessons two UCLA Luskin School students learned while on exchange programs in Europe.
Eric Johnson and India Brookover, both Masters of Urban Planning students, spent the Fall quarter at Sciences Po in Paris and Hertie School of Governance Berlin respectively. In all, six UCLA Luskin students studied abroad in Paris and Berlin during the Fall term: Brookover, Johnson, and Public Policy students Yang Chen, Jared Erwin, Huatian Li and Lingxi Liu.
The exchange program is part of Professor Michael Storper’s efforts to expand UCLA Luskin’s international presence — titled Luskin Global — under the School's strategic plan.
Both students were excited at the opportunity to study abroad, especially in cities that were so different than Los Angeles.
Johnson said it was “a great opportunity to see concepts talked about in class like land use, design and transportation used in another city. Paris was so much more accessible and walkable at all times which is the opposite of Los Angeles.”
Brookover felt like Berlin had many parallels to Los Angeles especially in terms of “its vastness and that it’s constantly renewing and changing itself.” In particular, she was interested in learning how Berlin is dealing with its issues of urbanization that are similar to Los Angeles.
Brookover and Johnson agree that Europe were more efficient in their planning practices and able to execute projects in a timelier manner. However, that speed often meant a more top down, less participatory, process which Brookover noticed was lacking.
“Berlin helped me broaden my perspective on how to enact policy but it also is a lot more top down in Germany – the state decides and the city follows," she said. "Citizens have no direct role in decision-making unless they are credentialed. There is a lack of transparency for citizen participation.”
The prominent role of bikes in European life was impressive to both students who traveled to Copenhagen to experience the infamous bike highways. “There are literally hundreds of biking commuters – it’s a bike expressway, with people ringing their bells instead of honking,” said Brookover.
“There really isn’t a ‘bike culture’ because bikes are everywhere, there doesn’t need to be – it’s a given.” she continued.
"Despite tiny streets, Paris squeezes the bike lanes into the roads – they just did it," Johnson said. "The bike share program is incredible. The first hour is free and it’s very extensive, maybe the best in the world."
The accessibility of the European cities served a model for these planners of what they would like to bring back to Los Angeles. Additionally, they both praised the way Europeans and their policy makers stress enjoying the quality of life right now.
“They try and create their own pleasures through simple things like more cafes instead of stressing wealth accumulation as the only way to enjoy the joys of life,” said Johnson.
Brookover said she is excited to work in Los Angeles and help bring some of that Joie de vivre here.
From left: Huatian Li, a UCLA Luskin Public Policy student, along with a student from Indonesia, a student from Japan and a student from the Dominican Republic all stand in front of The Louvre in Paris.
Yang Chen, a UCLA Luskin Public Policy student, left, stands with his French teacher at Sciences Po along with one of his classmates from India.
Standing, from left: Lingxi Liu, Huatian Li and Yang Chen back at UCLA after their trip abroad.