Launching the Open Public Life Data Protocol, Version BETA

A Common Language for People Data

We are pleased to announce the beta launch of the Public Life Data Protocol developed by Gehl Institute, in close partnership with Gehl, the practice, the Municipality of Copenhagen, the City of San Francisco, and with support and input from Seattle DOT. The Public Life Data Protocol is a data specification that aims to improve the ability of everyone to share and compare information about what people do in public space. It describes a set of metrics that are crucial to the understanding of public life in public space.

Gehl Institute initiated the co-creation of the Public Life Data Protocol to make public life data sets more compatible, scalable, and comparable across different cities and regions. We’re honored to have partners that represent a breadth of disciplines. The departments of urban design (San Francisco), data (Copenhagen), transportation (Seattle), combined with the Gehl practice’s experiences in over 250 cities, speak to the diversity of possibilities to develop public life. The range of expertise among the founding members also attests to the need for a standard protocol, so that we can more easily pool our knowledge about people in public spaces and build on best practices from around the world. We know that public life information is essential to good decision-making.

The protocol will be open for any and all to use, and we invite anyone who cares about their public spaces–and not only design or planning professionals–to be empowered by the guidelines and contribute to the growing knowledge base.  

Take a look around the files. As a soft launch, we’d specifically appreciate feedback about the concept behind the protocol itself, ideas for collaborations, and comments about continued development. Stay tuned for updates on uploads of editable documents, data sets, and upcoming events. We’re excited to learn with you!

Download The Protocol, Version BETA

Public Life Data Protocol, Version BETA

Next Steps:

Public Life Data Protocol, Version: BETA, will be followed up by more tests in the field, examples of public life data sets, presentation material, examples of survey sheets, and more general survey guidelines explaining how to conduct a survey from A to Z.

In preparation of the publication of the Protocol Version 1.0 later this autumn, the development team welcomes feedback from all stakeholders. If you have input or would like to know how you can get involved, please send an email to


The Protocol is the result of a collaboration between Gehl Institute, Gehl, San Francisco’s Urban Planning Department, and Copenhagen’s City Data Department, with input from Seattle Department of Transportation.



Image of public life researchers courtesy of Centro Aberto, Gestão Urbana SP, Prefeitura de São Paulo.