In the short term with lockdowns still in place, it might seem premature to see what positive changes coronavirus and the ‘new normal’ might bring to cities. The last few months have been horrendous times for cities, from Milan to New York, with the focus on safety and social distancing.
As the virus hopefully starts to lift however, there are glimmers of hope and green shoots around the world. With so much negative coverage and gloom we decided to find some positive aspects to cities that could emerge. These changes are happening already in many cities and could accelerate as we emerge from lock down.
The cities of the future might look very different, and it might just be down to positive changes that the pandemic forced upon us…
Positive Changes That The ‘New Normal’ Could Bring To Cities
1. Larger Pedestrianised Areas
We’ve written about the concept of pedestrianised cities in detail, and it is already happening in cities around the world with roads being closed. The initial idea is to make more space to help people socially distance and get to work by walking or cycling.
While it might be seen by many as a short term solution at first, this is something that could quickly become a long term trend. Many have campaigned for this for years and it could become the new reality.
2. Create Vibrant Local Neighbourhoods
City centres tend to have lots of large gathering spots. Main streets, shopping centres, cinemas and large bars, to name but a few. With the general public wary of these sorts of venues and strict rules in place, local neighbourhoods are going to flourish.
Some of the best cities in the world (London, Melbourne and Berlin) are known for the communities within a city that feel like villages. With people staying closer to home, expect local neighbourhoods to flourish. That might be through small local restaurants, pop-up produce stores or cultural projects.
3. Reduced Commuting With Work From Home
One clear trend that has emerged is that lots more people are going to be working from home. Twitter have even said their employees can work from home forever.
This will remove huge swathes of the population from public transport and change commute times. We are pretty sure everybody will agree that commute times are one main part of city living that people are least fond of.
Work from home won’t work for everybody, but it will make commutes much easier and less busy for those who are moving around.
4. A Refreshed Main Street / High Street
Large crowded spaces are going to suffer as the year progresses. Many of the biggest venues in cities are large chains of bars, restaurants and retail outlets. Many offer little to the community fabric or individuality of a city.
Some of these large venues are already struggling and with footfall not expected to rebound, the look of main streets across the world could start to change. Instead of every main street in the world starting to look the same, we could get back to something more unique and original at a local level.
5. Park Culture Will Flourish
The smart city planners will see that the first place people in cities are rushing to are open spaces and parks. A great city can never have enough green space or exciting outdoor areas.
Even in urban areas like Singapore, where the population levels are high, they have shown what is possible. We will start to see massive investment in outdoor areas and an increase of park culture.
6. Increased Street Food Offerings
There are few things as exciting as eating street food or dining in outdoor markets and food trucks. While they are already prevalent in parts of the world like Asia, this is a trend that will accelerate globally.
People will be much happier eating their lunch served from a food truck while sitting in a park than in a packed deli. Street food gives a city vibrancy and we can expect to see a lot more of it.
7. A Culture Of Cycling
People clearly will want to spend as little time in confined spaces as possible after all of this. Subways and public transport in general will suffer.
The biggest problem with cycling is that most cities just aren’t set up for it (apart from say Copenhagen or Amsterdam), but the virus will change that.
This will be good for the environment, for public health and for the general buzz of a city. Law makers with any sense of timing will fully embrace and accelerate this trend. Just another one of the positive changes coronavirus could bring.