Will Covid permanently change how cities use open space? Will they keep the changes – like patios, slow streets and pop-up bike lanes – that were made in response?
According to this report, maybe not – at least in the States:
Parks and open space took on increased value last year as residents sought fresh air while social distancing and stay-at-home orders were in place to stop the spread of the coronavirus. And cities responded by closing certain streets to vehicle traffic, including in parks, to help cyclists and pedestrians move about safely and to encourage more outdoor dining at restaurants.
But desire to make those changes permanent appears to be low: just over a third of respondents say they plan to keep the new space allocated for outdoor dining, while only 6% said they plan to make changes like widened sidewalks, new bike lanes and closed roads a permanent feature of their cities.
Katharine Lusk, co-director of Boston University’s Initiative on Cities and a report co-author, said. “We thought based on prior surveys that mayors would similarly have been motivated to accelerate bike infrastructure expansion. And we were really struck by the fact that there wasn’t as much motivation and acceleration toward the expansion of bike infrastructure and the reclamation of parking spaces and driving lanes toward new bike lanes.”
So that’s from U.S. mayors. Will it be different in Canada? One would think, hopefully, that in Vancouver with respect to the repurposing of curb lanes for patios, transit stops, bike share, etc that a new bar has been established that won’t be lowered. But with respect to slow streets, the results don’t seem to have justified permanent changes unless part of a larger plan.
It appears there will be still be the need for ongoing motivation and pressure to expand the reallocation of street space, and in some cases protect that which has been achieved in the face of rising post-covid automobile use.
UPDATE: Here’s how one councillor in Seattle is trying to make the temporary permanent: Ideas in Open Streets: Make Them Permanent, Seattle.