People are leaving the cities: should we be worried?
Why people in smart cities are healthier
The pandemic has led to people leaving the cities. What affect does this have on the urban environment and what should city leaders do about it?
Many cafes, restaurants and bars may never reopen. Non-essential shops are in trouble. Theatres and music venues have been closed. Many who can are looking to live elsewhere.
However, living in densely populated cities can offer many health benefits – even during a pandemic. You are also significantly less likely to be obese whilst living in a dense area. A study by Oxford University and the University of Hong Kong showed that in 22 British cities people had lower levels of obesity and exercised more than dwellers in dispersed, suburban homes.
It comes down to a greater amount of movement and less reliance on cars to get around. Also a more vibrant street life can provide opportunities for positive social interactions and ultimately lessen isolation.
However, cities that support and facilitate these benefits are only possible with good planning, infrastructure and technology.
De-urbanization would harm economic growth because cities generate bring about scale economies and are efficient breeding places of creativity and innovation.
According to BBC Future, dense metropolitan areas tend to have better access to healthcare, higher-grade facilities, more specialised levels of services, as well as faster emergency response times. In fact, one study found that people living in more sprawling residential areas are three times more likely to be in a fatal crash than their counterparts in more dense areas. Also, research has found no link between Covid-19 and population density.
Shrinking of cities will have other adverse effects too, from reducing cultural vibrancy and cosmopolitanism to exacerbating climate change, reports Geoffrey Garrett of Wharton. In addition to being more productive, cities also tend to be more environmentally sustainable.
After coronavirus, people will be more fearful of crowded trains and buses, cafes and restaurants, theatres and stadiums, supermarkets and offices. Crowded spaces are the lifeblood of cities. But now crowds are seen as major health risks. It’s essential that the urban centres invest in their smart city infrastructure. Counting the number of people in each place, and making the information freely available, can reassure people and lead to safer cities. Showing safe occupancy levels can help get the city back up and running.
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Why cities are not as bad for you as you think, Matthew Keegan, BBC Future, December 2020
The Post-COVID-19 World Will Be Less Global and Less Urban, Wharton, University of Pennsylvania, May 2020
Video Occupancy Counters for Retail, Buildings and Transport, Retail Sensing, 2020