As the new pandemic reality requires radical rethinking about how we live our lives, one hint of where we may be going could appear this summer in a neighborhood near you. The re-opening of bars and restaurants coinciding with warm weather is pushing city officials to reallocate the space that diners and motorists can occupy. It remains to be seen if this is the beginning of deeper post-COVID-19 shift in urban planning in favor of pedestrians over cars and drivers. In the meantime, here are three examples of a new look for the summer:
In France, where outdoor cafés and restaurants are typically crowded with tourists and locals alike sharing apéros and conversation, we may begin to see a gradual reopening this month of les terrasses, yet no formal plans have yet been made. But according tot he Le Parisien daily, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo will be making some major changes to the city's layout, for locals and commuters alike, that could include the closure of at least 30 roads from cars and traffic, including Rue de Rivoli near the Louvre, and a few other tourist-heavy areas, to open up more through-ways for pedestrians and cyclists. As far as for restaurants, cafés and bars? The mayor is also making space for them in some major ways, such as letting them spill out into the street and parking spaces so that they can still serve while respecting sanitary conditions. According to Hidalgo, "Entire streets could be reserved for them free of charge."
Paris' Rue de Rivoli on May 9 — Photo: Xinhua/ZUMA
In Lithuania, public spaces are turning into open-air markets and restaurants in an attempt to help small and local businesses stay-afloat during the pandemic. In the capital city of Vilnius, in the winding streets of the historical center, there are currently 18 businesses spilling out onto sidewalks and streets in an effort to respect the designated 2-meter space between tables. Le Monde reports that there are more than 160 restaurants already looking for a space of their own to open shop back up after the most restrictive lockdown measures are lifted on May 11th. According to Vilnius Mayor Remigijus Simasius, "this measure will help small establishments survive and keep jobs, while the tourist season, which is increasingly important for the city's revenue, is slow to start." To give an additional boost to the restaurant and hotel sectors, new events have been created to get more people back to work, like open-air concerts and even converting the tarmac of the Vilnius airport into a massive drive-in movie theater.
In the United States, restaurants and stores in Tampa, Florida, are now allowed to take up more space and spread out to meet social distancing requirements and safety measures. As a part of the city's new economic package elegantly referred to as the "Lift Up Local Economic Recovery Plan," restaurants and stores can now expand onto sidewalks, streets, and even into parking lots and spaces. "Our small businesses are the backbone of our economy," Mayor Jane Castor told the Tampa Bay Times. "We need their help to safely and successfully re-open our city and get back to all the things we love — one step at a time." These "cafe and retail zones" will be opening up across the city and will face strict regulations to prevent overcrowding, such as all restaurants are to be reservation-only, police will be on duty, and an old pre-coronavirus concept takes on new meaning: No loitering.
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