Coronavirus: paving the way for a new urban lifestyle?
Covid-19 has changed European cities. Outdoor activities have become increasingly popular and more people are cycling to work to avoid cramped conditions on public transport, often benefitting from wider bicycle lanes. On the downside thousands of businesses are closing and the hectic pace in many of the continent's metropolises has given way to empty streets - prompting journalists to paint grim scenarios for the future.
The virus is accentuating the desolation of our big cities, entrepreneur and author Guido Maria Brera writes in La Stampa:
“Italo Calvino wrote in his book Invisible Cities that every city is a counter-image to the desert it faces. Today, however, the battle seems to be behind us: the desert has penetrated the urban fabric and occupied it. The city has nothing to counter it, it's losing its shape, its substance. Empty spaces, deserted streets, lowered blinds, uninhabited buildings. The city in the age of the pandemic is ghostly, and threatens to dissolve. .... There were signs of this even before Covid-19. ... As in other areas, the pandemic has only highlighted the fact that the so-called normality wasn't normal at all.”
The end of metropolis-based globalisation
The coronavirus crisis has permanently changed society's prospects for the future, Le Figaro believes:
“Due to their universal character and long duration, pandemics are even more powerful accelerators of history than economic crises. The Covid-19 epidemic is changing the world of the 21st century more profoundly than the 9/11 Islamist attacks or the stock market crash of 2008. Globalisation was based on a network of world cities that concentrated people, wealth, services with high added value, technologies, knowledge and power. ... The lockdown of half of humanity which lasted several months in some places, as well as the rapid development of the home office have had enormous psychological, economic, social and political repercussions. They have changed our behavior and led to spectacular breaks with the past.”
Give cities direct access to EU funds!
Financial incentives could be used to give sustainability efforts in metropolitan areas a big boost, sociologist and urban researcher Iván Tosics writes in Népszava:
“What's more, efforts should be made to expand the financial leeway and open up new financial resources through international lobbying and inter-city cooperation. It seems that the new EU budget and the recovery plan are headed in the right direction, however decisions have yet to be made at the national level, and there are no signs that effective control mechanisms will be introduced. It would be better to ensure that cities that show real commitment to sustainability are given direct access to EU funds.”
A game changer for cycling
Covid-19 has paved the way for a revolution in urban mobility, comments the head of the Berlin office of the Zukunftsinstitut think tank, Daniel Dettling, in Die Welt:
“The city dwellers who are avoiding public transport due to the coronavirus will keep using their bicycles or e-bikes in the post-corona era. The virus has become a catalyst for car-free city centres. … In order to maintain the required minimum distance, the distance between car lanes and bike paths and footpaths is being widened. In Vienna and Berlin, residential streets have become meeting places. New York, Vancouver, Mexico City and Budapest have set up car-free side roads for pedestrians and cyclists. ... That makes coronavirus a game changer for a new urban mobility.”
Garden picnics in keeping with Mediterranean spirit
In Público, architect Maria Fradinho describes her vision of a city worth living in after coronavirus:
“The ideal city is characterised by humanised and ecological architecture. The houses have outdoor areas and the streets are an extension of these semi-private gardens and terraces. The urban architecture offers a natural, flowing and balanced connection between the public and the private. It allows us to have a vegetable patch or even an orchard, and to have picnics without leaving our homes. ... Pedestrian walkways are flexible and versatile and provide access to all important services. In the ideal city the Mediterranean spirit is truly lived; life takes place outdoors.”