But I have detected something new and that is attitude. This is evident in some bold initiatives taken during the pandemic, such as the creation of 650km of cycle lanes in Paris. It is also manifest in London, where streets in Soho have been commandeered by outdoor cafes.
Neighbourhoods outside the city core have also seen a resurgence in appeal. Tagged the “15-minute city”, these are places where working, learning, dining and recreation can all happen within walking distance from home.
Again, this is not new, but it has been boosted by the pandemic. Taken together, these trends add up to cities that can be cleaner, quieter, healthier, more walkable and bikeable, and vitally, greener.
TOWARDS MORE EQUITABLE CITIES
Debates about the city often ignore those who make it function behind the scenes – essential workers in health services, cleaning, maintenance, sanitation and security.
A key consequence of change should be greater reward and better housing for this vital sector of society – in other words, a more equitable city.
Change is also linked to the rate of urbanisation. Before the pandemic, the equivalent of eight cities the size of New York were emerging annually around the world. All of this adds up to another 2.5 billion people living in cities in 30 years’ time.
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Looking further afield, could the impact of the pandemic lead to a reassessment of global networks and supply chains?
Politically, will it lead to more global collaboration on the big issues, such as energy production and climate change, or will we see more fragmentation and a shift towards an “everyone for themselves” approach?
The hope is that it will be “we, we, we” and not “me, me, me”. The ideal outcome is global action on the big environmental and health issues, and local action in all the activities such as governing and improving our connected societies.
Lord Norman Foster is the Founder and Executive Chairman of Foster + Partners. This is an edited version of the article published in the June 2021 issue of Urban Solutions magazine to be launched at the World Cities Summit 2021.