Opinion – Claudio Bernardes: Directions for the future of urban areas


City managers around the world are concerned with dealing with the economic and environmental effects of urban sprawl, with the impacts created by fiscal deficits, poor mobility, insecurity, social inequalities and racial segregation.

Cities need to face these and other problems in an efficient and organized way, making the appropriate directions, and adopting urban development policies, focused on a better future for their inhabitants.

Perhaps, the beginning of this process should take place from the definitive adoption of the 15-minute city concept.

Developed initially to reduce carbon emissions, reducing the use of cars and motorized travel time, encouraging walking and active cycle transport, it has become a model of decentralized urban planning, in which in each neighborhood there are all the social elements. basic functions and functions for living and working, transforming them into “urban cells”, whose objective is to improve people’s quality of life.

Cities must direct their development towards models that fight inequalities through access to decent housing, infrastructure, equal rights, jobs and opportunities. There is no point in a city being sustainable, resilient and competitive if it is not inclusive. Public space is used by residents differently, and differences must be taken into account when planning a city. Inclusion must be a fundamental pillar of urban growth, operated in its three dimensions: spatial, social and economic.

Cities must be planned and designed to generate social and economic results for all. Inclusive planning can mean building urban centers that provide security through safe spaces for everyone, especially people with mobility difficulties. Both technology and democratic participation are necessary factors to accelerate mechanisms of social inclusion.

Digitization allows governments to facilitate access to a range of public services, and improve the business environment, which creates opportunities. It enables more accurate analysis of social gaps, mass education, and real-time data collection, facilitating predictive and proactive actions for the benefit of citizens.

In addition to technology, democratic participation is a second catalyst for social inclusion. Bringing diversity as a fundamental subsidy to the planning process, it is possible to avoid models that generate inequalities, and to create inclusive cities, centered on equity as a principle.

Cities that adopt development patterns based on a circular economy, structured on the principles of sharing, reuse and restoration, with an emphasis on limiting municipal waste volumes and on local production, for example, urban agriculture, will be at the forefront in building a better future.

A city that lives in a circular economy promotes better use of resources, consumes less, reuses and recycles water, energy, products and materials; it encourages a repair economy, and feeds a sharing mentality (car trips, spaces and materials). It therefore encourages an innovative approach to how the city and its citizens consume, store and use resources.

In the search for a sustainable future, cities must regenerate their buildings. Many of them are energy inefficient and contribute heavily to carbon emissions. Smart and efficient infrastructure must evolve with a primary focus on people. This will help city managers to implement a more holistic concept of well-being, and in this way contribute to improving the quality of life.

The direction for a better future in urban areas is outlined. The instruments and tools to implement it are available, as is the information. It remains for public leaders to make firm political-strategic decisions that enable cities to tread this path efficiently and successfully.

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