Cities around the world are taking the opportunity to plan for a greener, safer comeback after the pandemic.
If you live in or near a city in the U.S right now, it’s pretty obvious that things have changed.
Lockdowns have forced millions of businesses to shut down, traffic has dramatically reduced, and public transportation has dwindled.
One positive thing that has come out of all this is people are developing new relationships with their communities and their streets; and the cities want to keep it that way.
“People have felt they own their neighborhood again, they feel connected to it again,” says Eric Garcetti, Los Angeles’s mayor, referencing streets that have been turned into open pedestrian spaces.
Garcetti adds: “People started walking in their neighborhood, biking, rollerskating. I think out of this pandemic you will see dozens of streets keeping it this way.”
Cities are using this negative situation as an opportunity to transform their cities into more open, greener, and safer spaces for residents.
For example, Seattle has shut down over 20 miles of roadway to cars. This gives folks a safe way to get outside and exercise while still being socially distant. Many of these closures look to be permanent.
New Orleans turned a portion of the French Quarter into a pedestrian-only area and is working on developing an outdoor shopping center. The goal is to cut down on carbon emissions and increase the livability for city residents.
“We need to pivot to a green economy,” says LaToya Cantrell, New Orleans’ mayor. “Our people are vulnerable to climate change — we are sinking as a city. We don’t have a choice.”
The concept of a greener, more pedestrian friendly-recovery has also been embraced by other countries around the world.
Subsequently, Cologne in Germany and Calgary in Canada are among cities that have closed off large areas to through-traffic to allow more room for pedestrians to social distance.
City officials in Bogota, Colombia have extended its car-free Sundays to the whole week. The Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo has banned private cars from the iconic Rue de Rivoli.
In the U.K, billions of dollars has been designated for major cities to invest in energy efficiency and pedestrian safety.
In Oslo, the capital of Norway, officials have removed thousands of street-side central parking spots. They added more bike lanes, footpaths, and socially distanced public transportation.
Through this effort, they achieved zero pedestrian and cyclists deaths this past year.
Cars will never be totally banned, and that’s a good thing. Many folks aren’t able to walk or bike everywhere.
However, fewer cars on the road and more open space will greatly benefit the health and wellbeing of the people and planet.
There’s a long, difficult road to recovery for many cities around the world. But, there will be a recovery. Until that time, we must continue to see the silver lining and do our best to adapt to the changes as they come.