13 Jul Public Space and its Role in the Fight Against COVID-19
The global health crisis that we have been suffering for more than a year has raised several questions around the habits and dynamics of people who live in big cities. With the mandatory social distance implemented in most countries, public space became a key factor in the fight against COVID-19. These times have forced us to reconsider the way in which we approach these shared spaces as well as our relationship with them.
Leisure time in the public space became an important alternative for people in the big cities, also raising awareness around the shared responsibility that this health crisis has raised. The policies of social distancing have made big city residents address a very important matter: the way in which businesses take advantage of the public space and how this violates the citizens’ right to a city where everyone should be free to walk, relax and breathe.
The pandemic has made it clear: for many governments, public space is no priority. As a result, it is distributed unevenly, turning into some sort of luxury when it is a human right. It has been proven that one very devastating side effect of this pandemic is the damage to our mental health: in these difficult times, a dignified public space for everyone is a necessity, not a desire. We need parks and green areas for the reduction of stress levels, for the improval of our wellbeing and for children’s development.
We deserve cities where we can walk without bumping into coffee shop or restaurant pieces of furniture, where cyclists can move safely and where kids have access to open spaces to play. We deserve cities where parks and green areas are functional, available and at reach. We deserve cities where people with disabilities have easy access to these spaces, and where we don’t have to travel long distances in order to find a park. We deserve clean and safe parks for everyone.
This pandemic is also an opportunity for reconsidering the way in which we occupy our cities. Citizens must join in the demand of better urban planning, public health, community development and architecture solutions to these shared issues. Let’s turn these difficult period into a path towards healthier, more inclusive and dignified cities for everyone.
- Marichela Sepe, Covid-19 pandemic and public spaces: improving quality and flexibility for healthier places, https://link.springer.com/article/10.1057/s41289-021-00153-x
- UN-Habitat, “Public Space and COVID-19”, https://unhabitat.org/sites/default/files/2020/06/final_public_space_key_messages_covid19_14_june_2020.pdf
- John Gendall, “COVID-19 has shown we all need public space more than ever” https://knightfoundation.org/articles/covid-has-shown-we-all-need-public-space-more-than-ever/