For many cities around the world, the need for social distancing has motivated cities to experiment with different urban planning schemes. Just last week, we published a story about how Paris is creating 650 kilometers of pop-up “corona cycleways” to be ready for May 11 when the lockdown is eased in France.
Meanwhile in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, plans have been announced to turn the city into a vast open-air cafe by giving over much of its public space to hard-hit bar and restaurant owners so they can put their tables outdoors and still observe physical distancing rules. Even so, that posed a problem for many restaurateurs in Vilnius old town, Senamiestis, a Unesco-listed world heritage site whose narrow streets make it almost impossible to place more than a couple of tables outside.
This prompted the mayor to offer the plazas, squares, and streets to nearby cafes so that they can set up outdoor tables and conduct their activities during quarantine. Eighteen of the city’s public spaces, including its central Cathedral Square, have been opened up for outdoor cafes and restaurants, city hall said, and more are expected to be added as the summer progresses. The move has been welcomed by owners, with more than 160 applying to take up the offer.
For all of us, Vilnius is giving a fine example of ingenious city planning as it makes the most of its space to help local businesses.