Modern cities: We need to make some room to breathe

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MODERN CITIESBusiness travellers who can afford a Hong Kong island hotel can do eight meetings per day almost without using a taxi: starting with a 08h00 breakfast, 9h30 and 11h00 meetings, a 12h30 business lunch, 14h00, 15H30 and 17h00 meetings, ending with a 19h00 business dinner. For one day you can do this schedule rather easily, but a second day in a row will be a bit too much. If you add the fact that the international airport is very conveniently linked with a very frequent high-speed-train which brings you to downtown Hong Kong island in 20 minutes, you realize why this is such an efficient business city of more than seven million souls.

Looking at the digital solutions of today, including ‘skype for business’ video conferencing, one can wonder why we would still want to actually move to see each other face-to-face for business or pleasure, given that eveything is possible remotely with the right device and broadband internet? Nowadays, we can easily meet less often in person and work together more in a cyber way.

For those who live in big dense cities, groceries and (hot) food can be delivered fast at home by delivery boys or girls on motorbikes or more ecologically on a regular bike, or even a jogger with a rucksack, if it’s not too heavy.

Furthermore, if we put our creative hat on for a moment, thinking of the service lifts in hotels or the train-like internal postal systems in service companies, why not make a very light electric train network throughout the city to transport goods to walking distance safe deposit boxes for pick-up? And let ‘anything’ be deliverable by those electric trains from warehouses? Or even replace the letterboxes of our apartments with those safe deposit boxes while using service lifts directly linked to the electric train network?

Drones could be another option for bringing things from warehouses directly to the buyer. For sure, we ain’t seen nothing yet as far as possibilities of the efficient organization of life and business in cities in the digital world are concerned. Cities should not only plan for a good and efficient sewer, water, electricity, broadband internet, road, public transport network, but also goods delivery systems that are well thought through.

It is clear that new green field cities may have an advantage over existing ones when it comes to implementing all those novelties. Still if you see the speed of change in large Asian cities, such as Shanghai in mainland China, you realize that they will never be far behind.

In conclusion, it may not be necessary to have many more, or only, mega cities in the future, a lot of efficient digital cities of five million inhabitants with a lot of greenery and not too many high-rise buildings may even be better suited to the needs and quality of life of the inhabitants. In a sense you can compare it with the giant cruise ships for 5,000 passengers compared to those for 500 to 1,000 passengers. Which one do you prefer? The latter, smaller ship, right? And they are much more maneuverable than the large cruise ships.