Riding bikes has gotten more popular over the course of the pandemic due to the fact it’s a safe outdoor activity. Popularity of commuting by bicycle has also increased thanks to initiatives done throughout many cities to increase infrastructure supporting bicycling. All of this has led to demand for bicycles which far exceeds the current global supply. This is a good thing, the more people riding bicycles the better.
Things are pedal to the metal all over the country. Whether it’s Calgary, Toronto or Halifax, bike shops are slammed, with a surge that started in March 2020 and has not let up — and a backlog that some experts say won’t be cleared up for months or even years.
That’s provided a surge in demand for bikes. Market research firm NPD Group says Canadian numbers aren’t tracked, but in the United States, sales of bicycles increased 75 per cent in 2020 compared with a year earlier. For the first two months of 2021, the increase year over year was 130 per cent.
Growing your own food is fun and possible, even in a tiny space, so everyone should give it a try. Cities are finding ways to encourage more people to grow food locally for a variety of reasons, and they all revolve around dealing with climate change. Cities become more resilient to climate change thanks to the benefits from an increase in urban farming. Those benefits range from local cooling effects from growing plants to the more serious food supply issues felt around the world. There’s no better time than now to try your hand at starting a small food garden.
Apart from private backyard gardens, urban gardening includes larger community gardens, allotment areas and building rooftops that allow people who don’t have backyards to also grow food. Ryerson University in downtown Toronto operates a rooftop farm on its engineering building that has a little under a quarter acre of growing space.
In that little space in the middle of the crowded city, the farm grows about 4,500 kilograms of food every year that supplies the university community and local chefs.
Growing significant amounts of food within the city is not necessarily a new concept. Karen Landman, a professor at the University of Guelph who researches urban gardening, says agriculture used to be a part of North American cities before being gradually zoned out of urban areas after the First World War.
“It’s actually a very old practice,” she said. “There is a lot of land where it could be turned into food production. And if we really had to, we could produce a lot of food. There are other cities in the world where urban agriculture is the primary source of food for many people.”
During the the last century urban planners in North America built cities for cars instead of people. The 21st century is literally paying the costs of their misjudgement. Efforts to make streets for people we gaining popularity over the last couple of decades and the pandemic pushed that further.
We’ve seen cities close streets to cars, open new green space, and overall make the urban experience better. Modern urban planners are calling on everycity to not only keep the people-friendly infrastructure but to accelerate the development of more.
Our urban parks, streets, and various semi-public and private spaces—from balconies to backyards and roof tops—are critical to maintaining mental, physical, and civic health during quarantine. After the pandemic subsides, I doubt we will readily part from them. Beyond our rekindled love of parks, there is a thirst for a radically expanded and verdant public realm, from living streets to sky gardens. Exciting possibilities are emerging in the overlap of urban design, architecture, landscape architecture, and horticulture.
IKEA’s research and design lab in Copenhagen released a book this month on ways we can improve our cities. They start by recognizing we’re presently facing two global crisis: a pandemic and catastrophic climate change. Their proposals to address these two issues within cities is titled The Ideal City and they outright admit that top-down urban planning is inherently problematic. The goal of the book is to demonstrate that change is possible, it’s happening, and we can make the world better by improving our lived environments.
Making Cities Safer
This chapter proposes that in addition to lowering crime, cities need to protect their citizens against extreme weather events and provide a healthy environment that fosters physical and mental well-being. It highlights a small project that makes a big impact: the Tokyo Toilet, a series of 17 public restrooms designed by renowned architects in Tokyo’s Shibuya district. By incorporating colored glass that’s transparent when the lavatory is empty and opaque when in use, Pritzker Prize–winning architectShigeru Ban’s designaddresses two basic concerns people have with public toilets: cleanliness and how to know if someone’s inside.
The future of urban transit can be found in the mountains. As we noted back in 2012, gondolas (AKA cable cars) are a very real and practical option to solve urban mobility. The benefits of using cable cars are many and when they are integrated into local fare systems they can function as a vital piece of transit infrastructure. We’ve seen the adoption of gondolas increase globally and hopefully even more cities will utilize this modern form of transit.
Vancouver is currently optioning a cableway, as are multiple cities throughout France. The future is now, and the future is suspended in the sky.
Cableways excel in transporting passengers over geographic obstacles and height differences, crossing rivers, valleys, and harbours, and scaling hills, many times cheaper than building a new road, rail line, tunnel, or bridge. And with a much smaller footprint than tram lines. A kilometre of cableway costs about half as much to install as the same length of tram line, and takes much less time to construct. Once approved, cableway systems can be designed and built in about a year.
With electric motors, cableways use significantly less energy and emit much less CO2 than diesel or hybrid buses, and are much quieter. Their simplicity provides near 100% reliability. In case of electrical outages, lines have an emergency backup generator. Operating costs are also quite low. Even though the Emirates Air Line carries only 10 percent of its capacity, it still generates revenue for TfL, such is the low cost of maintenance and motive electricity required.