We still haven't solved the problems of our cities like inequalities, mobility, pollution, lack of affordable housing, mass tourism, and the pandemic has added a new problem: how do we maintain social distance?
In order to face Covid-19, but also other pandemics that may occur in the future, we have to start thinking about creating safe public spaces, public transport that is not always overcrowded, proximity shopping that does not concentrate many people.
Many people have advocated telecommuting as an option to reduce city traffic. However, in many professions it is not possible to do teleworking and in others it means exploitation with the difficulty of separating working time from personal time. In addition, the entire educational community considers that the non-classroom school increases inequalities in learning, and, taking into account that 20% of the car trips in the city are for dropping children off at school, we will keep these trips if families have no alternative.
In addition, many experts consider it possible that there is a relationship between air pollution and the incidence of the virus, so the post-covid city will always have to reduce air pollution.
Thus, investment in public transport, increasing its frequency and convenience, appears as a priority. Likewise, the creation of cycle paths to encourage smooth mobility has been suggested as a solution to reduce the crowding of public transport.
Some urban planners have argued that we should think of “15 minute cities”, that is, that we should design cities so that people find essential services and goods within a 15 minute radius around their homes. The post-covid city also needs this logic to reduce travel and to be able to recover urban space for cars, naturalizing the city, increasing the number of pedestrian streets and investing in squares and green spaces in proximity.
Reclaiming public space means that we can spend more time together, even with a safe distance. We cannot continue to have a city where we walk 25 minutes by car to pick up the week's purchases or go to the bank.
In addition, in Portugal we have to seriously address the housing problem. The lack of historical investment in housing has made us totally dependent on the purchase of the individual house, in fact we think it is the only chance. Thus, there are thousands of families living in conditions of precarious housing and overcrowding.
But social isolation cannot be done without a home or in an overcrowded house. A large program of construction of public housing at controlled prices is needed for the middle and lower classes and mechanisms for controlling the rental market, such as a maximum rent ceiling, are needed. These are realities in other cities like Berlin, Vienna or Barcelona, but in Lisbon or Porto we hope that the unruly market will take care of everything.
The important thing is that responding to the challenges of the post-covid city can help solve the city's classic problems. In other words, if we adapt our cities to be safer and more resilient to the virus, we are also working to reduce inequalities, mobility problems and homelessness.