Many hope that improvements will come out of this global struggle with health and the Covid-19 pandemic. Ideally, the aftermath will continually show our old way of life giving way to positive new growth.
For one, the City of Lights, Paris, is coming forward with some improved ways of life after the lockdown. Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo voices the resolve: “I say in all firmness that it is out of the question that we allow ourselves to be invaded by cars, and by pollution. It will make the health crisis worse. Pollution is already in itself a health crisis and a danger — and pollution joined up with coronavirus is a particularly dangerous cocktail. So it’s out of the question to think that arriving in the heart of the city by car is any sort of solution, when it could actually aggravate the situation.”
City Lab highlights the Parisian voice, supporting a move the US would be wise to consider.
As Paris prepares to end its lockdown on May 11, Mayor Anne Hidalgo says returning to a congested, traffic-polluted city center is “out of the question.” @CityLab https://t.co/ouDFl5mJfW
— Environmental Health Perspectives (@EHPonline) May 5, 2020
Speaking recently at a special session of the Paris City Council on transitioning after France’s national lockdown eases, Mayor Hidalgo sustained her position on the anti-pollution and anti-congestion measures.
Many places around the globe found plummeting consumption of oil and other fossil fuels to have a positive affect on health. One study estimated that 11,000 air pollution-related deaths were avoided as a result. Besides reducing the air pollution, walking and bicycling in and of themselves slow cognitive decline.
Bouncing those brain fluids side to side (right brain, left brain, integrated brain) reminds us that bicycle paths and bicycling contribute to the invigorating health of cities — part of a complex urban metabolism that is effectively improving circulation, personally and circulation of the city.
Mayor Hidalgo is focused on remodeling the city core to make more space for pedestrians and cyclists. She was already making a move to exclude older, more polluting cars from the city. The lockdown brought the issue forward in a sense. This involves the phasing out of car lanes and parking spots to create pedestrian paths and wider sidewalks, and more oxygen-boosting greenery.
Nitrogen dioxide levels have fallen by 36% and toxic particles by 9% on average in British cities in the past 30 days, according to analysis by the @CREACleanAir. https://t.co/yODoltOP2Q
— Andrew Gregory (@andrewgregory) April 30, 2020
We failed to learn from Italy during the rise of this pandemic, partly due to false stereotypes. The country's cities have some good ideas for life after lockdown, so we shouldn't make the same mistake again.https://t.co/PjHtdVqcsx
— Feargus O'Sullivan (@FeargusOSull) April 22, 2020
City Lab reports that Milan is also focused on stimulating more cycling and walking. “Over the summer, the city core will be partly remodeled to give over 22 miles (35 kilometers) of road space previously used by cars to bikes and pedestrians. Those cars that are allowed into the center must adhere to a new reduced 30 kilometers per hour speed limit.
“The aim is to make traffic more fluid and give pedestrians more space to spread out safely. Milan may be ahead of the curve, but it is far from the only European city considering similar car-mitigation measures. Rome Mayor Virginia Raggi also wants to encourage more active travel and open summer schools, while boroughs in Berlin are also reclaiming road space to make into wider bike lanes. Brussels has gone yet further.
“From May 4, the Belgian capital’s entire city core will be a priority zone for cyclists and pedestrians, one in which cars cannot exceed a speed of 20 kph and must give way in the roads to people on foot or on bikes. This comes on top of an ongoing pedestrianization plan designed to make Brussels’ core a more attractive place for people on foot.”
The desire for "normalcy" is strong: Respondents of one survey said they expected to see no change in their post-pandemic travel habits, no matter the modes. https://t.co/K2mmNY1jOd
— Bloomberg CityLab (@CityLab) May 15, 2020
Out west in the US, City Lab mentions a survey conducted in April that points to the possibility of less driving after lockdown. “Led by Arizona State University urban planning professor Deborah Salon, this questionnaire probed 800 workers across the U.S., many of them concentrated in Arizona and other western states.
“Since it was largely distributed through ASU’s professional networks, Salon’s survey attracted a disproportionate number of people with graduate degrees, and transportation researchers specifically. Readers beware: ‘These people are weird,’ said Salon, who is continuing the survey in hopes of attracting a nationally representative sample. Any U.S. resident can take it here.”
Salon sees a promising sign for sustainability-minded planners. “A lot of cities are converting their streets to bike and pedestrian space as an emergency measure,” Salon said. “Maybe cities could take this as an opportunity to say, hey, if we want to have more non-motorized travel, then maybe we could make some of those conversions permanent.”
More than 300 of you have responded to our call with an incredible range of interpretative maps, submitted from all over the world.
We continue to be amazed by the creativity of these maps—and the stories that go with them. https://t.co/74zvnIYL8p
— Bloomberg CityLab (@CityLab) May 15, 2020
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