Urban studies theorist Richard Florida believes Canadian cities should start planning out what a staggered reopening of urban centres would look like — potentially by including wider bike lanes and sidewalks to ease congestion and moving some indoor businesses outside.
“We have got to redesign to reopen,” said Florida, a professor at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management and School of Cities
“We need to think about how we can design our infrastructure… so we feel safe on them as we get back to using them.”
Toronto Mayor John Tory said the city’s staff are also looking at which areas could reopen before others, although he made it clear that may not happen for months.
“We’re going to do it carefully, we’re going to it methodically and we’re going to, most importantly, do it safely based on public health advice,” said Tory.
“We will come forward with a plan in an integrated manner that has a phase one, that will have some people who will go first, but that will be based on thoughtful consideration.”
Florida has his own opinions of how a phased approach to opening a city would look like, which would include opening some parks, but not encourage the playing of team sports.
“I think we can start to reopen small things, more of our parks, more parts of parks,” said Florida.
“But we’re not going to let kids on swing sets yet, we’re probably not going to play basketball games or on golf courses or tennis courts.”
When it comes to work, Florida adds that it would be best to ease back into repopulating office spaces by only allowing a small number of employees to return — instead of allowing all staff to come back at once.
“We should keep working remotely as much as possible; we have to keep the traffic down.”
He adds that would also reduce the number of cars on the streets and people using public transit during rush hour, minimizing the size of the crowds.
What’s more, he argues that increasing the size of sidewalks and bike lanes will also allow more people to use alternate forms of transportation while still physical distancing.
Florida adds that airports could also start increasing their air traffic, but the screening process shouldn’t return to normal for a while.
“I think the retrofit is going to be bigger than the terrorist attacks of 9/11,” said Florida.
“We’re going to need temperature sensors… we’re going to need good personal protective equipment… we’re going to have to change those waiting stations at airports and subways so they’re little ways or spaced apart.”
The University of Toronto professor believes that small- and medium-sized businesses will have the toughest time returning to their normal practices and many of them will be out of business months from now.
He adds that many venues, like museums and concert halls, should restart by only allowing a number of customers to attend their events while practicing physical distancing.
And restaurants should consider unorthodox practices, like using public spaces outside of their establishments.
“So let’s be creative,” he said. “Let’s give restaurants access to space adjacent or down the block.”
There are many businesses that will remain closed and open much later than others since they’re not deemed essential
“We’re preparing for a longer situation and making sure we don’t open to quickly and cause a secondary spike or anything like that,” said Brendan Sorichetti, a personal trainer with Barry’s Bootcamp.
Sorichetti is one of many trainers who have taken to Instagram to provide a free daily workout for followers.
But since gyms aren’t likely to be on the top of the list of businesses that will open soon, they’re planning on shifting to a paid online training session to keep their business alive.
“If it comes to transitioning into Zoom workouts, we’re working on that now and we’re spending a lot of time fine-turning… we want to possible transition into that into the next few weeks and settle in for the long haul.”