The Secret Behind Vibrant Cities

One of the keys to a vibrant city is people-friendly public spaces. Having just returned from Paris, where I’ve already spent two weeks this year, I can attest that when it comes to such spaces, Toronto still lags behind Europe.

Take this tiny canal in downtown Paris:


Located near Place de la République, it fills nightly with people who meet their friends. Thanks to the lax enforcement of municipal laws, they eat and drink wine and beer together. Overnight, the city cleans up any mess and empties the large quantity of public waste bins.

Besides its famous cafés, public spaces are one important factor contributing to Paris’ allure. In the famous Luxembourg Gardens, you could easily spend an entire day watching puppet theatre or playing basketball, petanque or chess. Parks are often filled with people having lunch, chatting and laughing the day away. So comfortable are they that many remove their shoes.

Admittedly, more people may have no choice but to use these spaces now that the French economy is in such bad shape. After all, it’s much cheaper to buy food and wine from a store than to eat out. Likewise, it’s easier on the pockets to meet friends by the river or watch an impromptu hoops game.

But so what? Public spaces enhance livability, bring communities together, and play a key part in the savoir vivre that Europeans have always understood so well.

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