Future cities: How the epidemic is motivating us to create the cities of the future:

Future cities: How the epidemic is motivating us to create the cities of the future 

Future Cities
ⒸFuture Cities

Future Cities throughout the world are evolving. The Champs-Élysées in Paris, one of the busiest streets in the world, will be transformed into a massive park. Barcelona has forbidden vehicles from entering its historic districts. And now Milan is moving towards being the first 15-minute city in the world (read on to see what it entails).

It appears that the epidemic inspired some people to reconsider our plans for the future of our oldest cities. Why? During the epidemic, there was a limited migration from our cities. It was the tiniest exception to the long-term trend of net migration from rural to urban regions. People who could afford to do so did so. For those that stayed, the lockdowns and mobility restrictions exposed the major problems with most cities: congested highways, filthy air, and a lack of green, public places.

Now, it appears that pause has prompted urban planners all across the world to reconsider how cities may grow to follow a new path. Here is how our cities can alter their path in the wake of the epidemic.

City-building in 15 minutes:

Future Cities
ⒸCity-building in 15 minutes

The 15-minute city is a concept that is gaining traction in major cities all over the world. As a result, the city is transformed from a congested core with outlying suburbs into a network of hubs that provide amenities for shopping and recreation. Many individuals may live near to more than one hub, and none of these hubs are more than a 15-minute walk or cycle away from where they reside.

Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris, has taken notice of the 15-minute city concept, which was developed by Colombian academic Carlos Moreno, a professor at the Sorbonne University in Paris. The temporary cycling lanes that were installed for 60 km in the French capital during the epidemic are being converted to permanent lanes, and further lanes are being planned.

However, in order to enable people to safely walk and bike to their destinations, additional infrastructure is necessary to build 15-minute cities, and this might present challenges. According to Dr. Ian Walker, professor of environmental psychology at the University of Surrey, “a complicated, fast-moving system where 70 million people all, at the same time, understand, agree, and accept the rules is not going to happen.”

It is far preferable to have a system where safety is guaranteed whether or not you agree with the rules. An extreme case would be if vehicles were prohibited from hitting pedestrians on the highway. If there is a separate cycling infrastructure or, even better, a separate driving infrastructure that keeps the drivers safely apart from everyone else, you can start to implement things like that in towns.

Future Cities
ⒸFuture Cities

The long-term objectives of the Paris plan concur with Walker’s opinions. The principal intersections that feed traffic into the city from the Boulevard Périphérique are being made safer for cyclists arriving from the suburbs, and enough segregated cycle lanes are being built to be utilised for most cycling trips of a km or less. In addition, 50,000 more cycle parking places in parking lots and outside of housing complexes are anticipated to be added to the city’s streets for daytime bike chaining.

The Obel Award, an international honouring outstanding architectural contributions to human progress, was given to Moreno’s 15-minute city proposal in 2021. The panel for the prize acknowledged the advantages of the 15-minute idea and said in a statement, “The 15-minute city is an intuitive concept and has the potential to produce meaningful improvement in people’s lives. It has proved simple to convert into political programmes and policies that reshape cities for these reasons.

It’s not just Paris, either. While Moreno has been presenting his ideas in China, there has been interest in the 15-minute proposal from Latin America. In places including Houston, Milan, Brussels, Valencia, Chengdu, and Melbourne, limited trials have also started. As part of the Agenda for a Green and Just Recovery, the C40 Cities, a global network of sizable cities committed to combating climate change, adopted the 15-minute city template in 2020.

Wilden up the city:

ⒸWilden up the city

After the COVID epidemic, many individuals developed a greater appreciation for nature and discovered that spending time in it helped them feel calmer and had positive effects on their mental health. People turned to green places closer to home, including gardens and the neighbourhood parkland, because they couldn’t travel far. Since then, there have been increasing demands for rewilding our cities so that we can continue to appreciate this relationship with wildlife in the future.

Studies have linked local green areas to increases in mental health, supporting the health advantages of being in nature. In a 2018 study with 342 participants in the US, individuals who lived close to vacant municipal lots that had been “greened” reported lower levels of depressive symptoms than a control group who did not.

Cities are a major factor in climate change, producing 80% of the greenhouse gas emissions in the world. Additionally, they will be disproportionately affected since so many were constructed near sea level. Urban areas with more greenery may absorb more carbon dioxide, have better air quality, and experience less floods. In order to achieve this goal, towering buildings are being constructed in Singapore with vertical gardens on their sides while in Zimbabwe, structures that don’t require air conditioning are being designed using the knowledge gained from termite nests.

Additionally, there is some data that suggests that poor air quality may have an impact on the microbiota in our gastrointestinal tracts, resulting in gut inflammation and diseases like Crohn’s disease or appendicitis. According to research by University of Calgary professor Gilaad Kaplan, gut wall defences are disrupted by air pollution.


Inflammatory bowel disease is more common in industrialised, urban societies, according to a 2017 study published in The Lancet, and mice exposed to air pollution in studies at Ohio State University developed anxiety and depression, gained more body fat, and lost insulin sensitivity compared to mice in a control group breathing filtered air.

According to a research conducted on more than 600 children in Belgium, a 3% increase in the amount of greenery in a child’s surroundings can boost IQ tests by 2.6 points, with higher improvements occurring at the lower end of the scale. Analysing the data revealed that trees were more advantageous to children’s development than open areas, such as farms. While this is going on, a study from the London School of Economics found that for every 10% increase in tree canopy cover, there was a 15% fall in violent crime. This shows that crime is lower in regions with trees.

At least in the UK, initiatives are underway to expand the green canopy. The UK government established the Urban Tree Challenge Fund in 2019 with the goal of establishing 30,000 hectares of trees annually across the country by 2025.

Imagine a different high street:

ⒸImagine a different high street

Many people who were compelled to stay at home during the epidemic learned to like working remotely and that they didn’t want to work in their city centres workplaces full-time. As a result, businesses are seeing a drop in foot traffic and are beginning to question why they are paying such high rent for office space in the city centre.

So how may our urban cores alter? Making people more engaged and focused on doing rather than just buying is one solution. As a result, there will be more cafes, pubs, restaurants, and theatres. Public high-speed internet connection on shopping streets may encourage customers to stay at a café and maybe work there rather than leaving after making their purchases because open-air markets are now perceived as being safer than stores that are located indoors following the COVID.

High streets that are digitally equipped have also been suggested; these streets would utilise sensors to track pedestrian and traffic levels and forecast the ideal times to avoid crowds.


‘Local’ is a term that frequently appears while discussing the future of cities. It is commonly suggested that city centres should be made “more local” by promoting the resurgence of grocery stores that use products from nearby farms instead than national chains. According to Deloitte statistics, chain retailers had already experienced a 6% loss since 2017 before the epidemic struck.

But human nature can be a barrier to such adjustments. Our cities are so accustomed to their current state that sometimes it is difficult for us to imagine them in a different or better state. The reverse causality theory is what some people refer to, explains Walker. This implies that you generally perceive your environment as positive. More often than not, the environment shapes your attitudes rather than the other way around.

“People don’t like change, but chances are that after a few months you’ll be doing it, so therefore you’ll like it,” the author says. “If your environment makes it easy to walk to the shops but makes it harder to drive, then you might grumble at first because people don’t like change.”

An answer for the final mile?

ⒸImagine a different high street

Separating people from their automobiles is one of the most crucial improvements that cities must do in order to enhance living there. Even in cities with robust public transportation networks connecting population centres, the final mile—for instance, the distance between a person’s home and the nearest train station—can nevertheless encourage the use of a car if it is deemed too far or risky to walk.

In some regions of the UK, the concept of a low-traffic neighbourhood (LTN), where automobiles are prohibited from quieter “rat runs” to keep them on the major roads, has gained popularity. While allowing walkers, bicycles, and emergency vehicles to still pass, LTNs try to filter out automobiles from residential streets using bollards, camera-controlled gates, or even pots full of flowers put across the road. In 2021, there were about 3,700 such programmes in London, and the UK as a whole had up to 25,000 traffic filters.

According to research conducted by the active transport charity Sustrans, “driving a mile on a minor urban road is twice as likely to kill or seriously injure a child pedestrian, and three times more likely to kill or seriously injure a child cyclist, compared to driving a mile on an urban A-road,” and that high levels of traffic in residential areas can contribute to an increase in social isolation. LTNs lessen this risk, resulting in a tripling of the number of injuries, and have been found to boost the number of customers visiting nearby establishments.

E-scooter rental experiments, which are now being conducted in towns and cities including Middlesbrough, Bristol, and Chelmsford, are also very well-liked. During the testing, throngs of electric scooters are available for rental at street corners. The scooters are rented via an app and then placed elsewhere inside the trial area after people are done using them so that the renting firm may pick them up and recharge them.



to have advantages in terms of convenience and the environment, but suffered from comparisons to toys for kids. The experiments are expected to go until November 2022, after which we’ll be able to determine whether they’re a practical approach to reduce emissions and enhance travel in our cities.

That’s not all, though. Early in 2022, Coventry became the first demonstration centre for drones and electric air taxis in the globe. To make short trips or transfer cargo, the taxis and drones stationed at the centre all take off and land vertically like helicopters. The hub’s developer, Urban-Air Port, intends to build more than 200 of these “vertiports” throughout the world over the next five years. According to Ricky Sandhu, the creator of Urban Air Port, it represents “the beginning of a new era of transport, an era of zero emission, congestion-free travel between and within cities that will make people healthier, happier, and more connected than ever before.”

One of the more challenging obstacles preventing us from living in healthier cities is weaning us off our dependence on our cars. When asked if cars are the biggest issue with contemporary city life, Walker responds, “I think they are because they act as an accelerator of other problems.

[Cars] make it possible to live far from your place of employment, for instance, which makes it less likely that you’ll mingle with coworkers. Automobiles also enable local governments to construct monstrous, awful retail malls on the outskirts of towns that are inaccessible to anybody without one.

Therefore, while transformation in our cities is conceivable, it will also require political will and support from the residents of those communities. But addressing the dominance of the vehicle will be the first action that has to be taken.

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