Building resilient urban futures by setting a mission for sustainability in the post-oil and post Covid-19 era

This submission has open access
Submission Summary
The current global health crisis has profoundly affected major urban centers all over the world. Confinement has put people’s lifestyles in question, changed daily priorities and limited citizen freedoms that seemed inalienable before. A new set of rules on social interactions and urban operations are fundamentally transforming the way we live, work and experience public space. These rules can hardly be seen as a temporary condition. The great impact of the crisis as well as its long duration have started to affect human behavior and routines gradually formulated throughout the course of time. In this context, urban planning is facing a major challenge; it has to create a balance between the urban engine of growth through concentration of ideas and social interactions without exacerbating the risk of potential contagion. The outcome of this task will become the new normal. A basic human activity that was greatly affected by the health crisis is mobility. In fact, the requirements of social distancing are far more challenging in larger cities where the population is concentrated in higher density. This creates two diametrically opposite forces that may be dependent on the specific cultural and economic environment. The first force poses new barriers for sustainability. The use of public transport is discouraged with imposed limits on the number of passengers and guidelines indicate the use of private means of transportation as much as possible. As a result private automobiles could emerge as the fastest, safest and finally most convenient option again, besides the tendency of last years to move towards greener mobility alternatives. This was the case in China where the post crises sales of cars rose significantly. The second force relates to an acceleration of sustainable mobility with citizens shifting towards walking, cycling, and other forms of micromobility, while the actual need for commuting is also reduced due to remote working. The actual long-lasting impact on mobility depends on regulatory trends, consumer behaviors but most significantly on the response of urban planners. Land-use planners can identify healthy and sustainable alternative urban design strategies to support and promote walking and cycling, while enhancing the accessibility and connectivity of the neighbourhood-level public spaces. Public authorities around the world are concerned about providing their citizens with adequate public space for social interaction. Several cities are responding to this need by allocating space to increase bike and pedestrian paths since walking and cycling are the simplest ways for integrating social distancing in the city. The purpose of this paper is to examine how current mobility trends affect the vision of post fossil-fuel and post Covid-19 cities by comparing land-use and mobility data from European and North American cities. We challenge the effectiveness of the current land-use planning towards a post-fossil fuel future under the circumstances of the pandemic. The paper identifies solutions arising from the use of ICT, the concepts of smart cities and ‘vision zero’ that make infrastructure, public space and mobility networks adaptable to the new spacing measures in order to limit the spread of the virus, while it examines different ways that cities can adapt their development towards a post fossil-fuel reality. This empirical research provides new insights into whether and how current land-use policies could become human instead of car-oriented and introduce more flexibility and mixed-use development. This crisis can be an opportunity for planners and authorities to release more space for people and promote environmental design and planning. In the end, cities which adapt in this new reality will become more resilient and move towards a sustainable future.
Submission ID :
Submission Type
Submission Track
3: Planning for Urban Connectivity
Associate Professor
Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
PhD candidate in Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
URENIO Research, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
Phd Candidate
Aristotle University of Thessaloniki