Foreign cities are taking advantage of the crisis to re- think their cities. Mayors from Bogota to Budapest are exploiting the lack of parked cars by installing bike lanes in every likely spot. Athens is widening its sidewalks, enlarging public squares and banning traffic beneath the Acropolis. Melbourne is trying to put shopping , leisure and work within twenty minutes of the residents’ homes. Paris is transforming itself so that everything in the center is just 15 minutes from the homes of all Parisians. New Zealand is discussing four day working weeks and other flexible working options
What are American cities doing, if anything? Washington DC, for instance, has a dismal public transport system, and can’t even bestir itself to renovate the canal which should be an important public amenity, and which is becoming instead a sewer.
Businesses that used to be attractions may never reopen. If cities are engines of economic growth then this is the moment for those with any vision to reimagine what feels like quite the opposite of an exciting metropolis .
A re- think is needed because there was a drift away from big cities happening before the virus arrived, not to mention the effects on office space of business-by-Zoom. Cities have to be made attractive to keep their populations and their businesses. It is convenient to live in a busy city, rather than have to get into a car every time you want a bottle of milk. But what happens when bottles of milk are no longer so available? Cue for massive falls in house values, probably avoidable had we energetic and imaginative leaders.
P.S: We have just had local council elections, and it looks as if just such an energetic, young and imaginative candidate might have won. A drop in an ocean, but I voted for her in any case.