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As Paris expands outdoor seating for restaurants and cafes, some streets will be entirely closed to cars. But there are still other competing demands for such street space, including pedestrians, who will need more space than before to social distance.  

As Paris expands outdoor seating for restaurants and cafes, some streets will be entirely closed to cars. But there are still other competing demands for such street space, including pedestrians, who will need more space than before to social distance.  

Photographer: Cyril Marcilhacy/Bloomberg
CityLab
Design

What Happens to Public Space When Everything Moves Outside

As restaurants and bars dramatically expand their outdoor seating, questions are emerging about who gets to occupy the streets. 

In this pandemic recovery period, city streets are starting to look a little different. To create room for social distancing, restaurant, bar and café tables are spilling out into the street. In some cases, this means more businesses adopt a Parisian sidewalk café model. In other cities, this design skips right past the sidewalks, which need all the room they can get for socially distanced pedestrians. Instead, tables occupy parking spots and vehicle lanes, and in some cases parks or public squares. This new way of organizing street space has already been rolled out in many cities, including Vilnius, Lithuania; central Paris; the old city of Barcelona and Boston’s North End. It’s in the process of being introduced in a host of other cities across the world this month as some urban centers tentatively emerge from lockdown.