For LGiU’s Global Local Pandemic Bulletin, Hannah Muirhead has picked out some key opinions and reflections of columnists and experts writing in publications from around the world, showcasing a variety of insights into what the impact of coronavirus might be on cities and urban spaces. We’ve compiled the latest updates here, building a picture of what the ongoing narrative looks like regarding issues such as density, transforming spaces and the movement of people.
Cities, density and the spread of coronavirus
The idea that big, densely populated cities are inherently unhealthy has re-emerged during the coronavirus outbreak. In her column in the New York Times, Mary T. Bassett explores the logic behind connecting the dots between population density and viral transmission, arguing ultimately that blaming density for disease in our cities is misguided. Writing for The Australian, Simon Kuestenmacher takes a look at the future of regional Australia in the post-coronavirus world, concluding that due to growing suspicion of high-density living plus the normalisation of home-working, regions will emerge from the pandemic stronger than before. From a planning perspective, Stephen Cairns, for The Straits Times, explores what this emerging debate means for cities like Singapore in the post-coronavirus world highlighting density integration, use of the outdoors, mobility and cyber-physicality as key points for action.
Urban change: harnessing, learning, reassessing?
The coronavirus pandemic has ignited debate about whether the changes we’re seeing in cities are to be harnessed, learned from or used as a basis for further reassessment. Writing in The Urbanist, Marcos Coronel looks at the city of Caracas to explore how the inevitable paradigm shift brought about by the pandemic presents an opportunity to remedy some of the pre-existing issues in global cities. Dr. Rajkumar Singh writes in Modern Diplomacy about how cities function as interconnected systems of social, economic and environmental resilience and how this crisis has showcased a need to rebuild these in a way where these systems are stronger and more inclusive. For Curbed, Alissa Walker highlights the dangers of redesigning space around coronavirus and environmental concerns but ignoring the racial and economic inequities issues that made Covid-19 more catastrophic than it should have been for many communities.
The future of transformed public spaces
Throughout the pandemic, conversations have developed regarding the transformation of public spaces and what this means for the future of how citizens engage with them. In The Jakarta Post, Daniel Bosque, Denis Lobrovic and Thomas Cabral look to the European cities of Barcelona, Dubrovnik and Lisbon respectively, exploring the impact the absence of tourists is having on public spaces and the daily lives of residents who can now, for better or worse, interact with them in whole new ways. Tony Matthews writes in The Conversation AU about how the Coronavirus crisis has changed our sense of place, whether it’s time to re-imagine the fundamental relationship we have with public spaces, particularly in cities, and that this presents a necessity for planners and policymakers to plan with people, rather than for people. In his column for the San Francisco Chronicle, John King highlights the diverging views of leading urban planning experts on the future of public spaces and the impossibility of “trying to make sense of something still going on” but suggests that a basic priority of local government can be making neighbourhoods more comfortable for residents.
How people move now
How to safely and effectively transport people from A to B has become a major discussion point as cities start to open up after lockdowns. In The Washington Post, Shelly Tan et al take public transport and use it as a lens to examine inequalities that coronavirus has brought to the forefront and suggests that, in their ongoing plans to tackle moving people in the post-lockdown pandemic, policymakers will have to consider how public transport directly affects access to different opportunities. As councils in towns and cities repurpose whole sections of the public right of way to aid with social distancing measures, The Economist looks at the renewed competition between different road users and considers the likelihood of these changes becoming permanent and what the implications of that might be going forward. For ABC News, Jake Lapham writes about how social distancing on public transit systems in New South Wales will be put to the test as people return to work and school this week, and explores some of the factors that may make “miss the peak, drive to work, or work from home” a challenge for many commuters.