THE ROLE OF CITY STREET EXPERIMENTS
The COVID-19 pandemic urged cities to quickly find and implement solutions to meet short term needs. Tactical urban interventions or street experiments are characterised by their quick, cheap, and yet well thought out implementation. So street experiments could be a way of responding to the challenges that became more tactile during the pandemic. In this way they could help make cities more resilient in the future and to be able to better respond to possible future crises. But how does that precisely work?
Overall, street experiments have been implemented throughout the pandemic with the primary objectives of improving and smoothening movement of people whilst assuring physical distancing. In this way, by reducing the risk of contamination on the streets, they have had a direct positive impact on public health. But there is more to it. The impacts of street experiments also indirectly benefit public health, and they even reach beyond this.
Worldwide, street experiments have shown to diminish car presence, give more space for active travel modes such as walking and cycling, and reclaim space for residents for other types of activities. These progresses result in less pollution, less car related accidents, more physical activity, and more options to go outside and to socialise, thus fostering healthier and safer cities. Street experiments also show to be positively related to economic recovery. Plentiful examples demonstrate how the extension of sidewalks and the implementation of parklets on streets and parking spaces enable bars and restaurants to safely open again after months of closure. Entrepreneurs and the catering industry generally show enthusiasm and they tend to be valuable partners in street transformations. In Munich, over 900 businesses have welcomed a policy that allowed parklets on the streets, enabling businesses to extend their outdoor spaces. More than 1100 parking spaces were removed, but still the demand for dining and drinking occasions was more prominent.