Urban nature in a time of crisis: recreational use of green space increases during the COVID-19 outbreak in Oslo, Norway
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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The global response to the COVID-19 pandemic has brought with it significant changes to human mobility patterns and working environments. We aimed to explore how social distancing measures affected recreational use of urban green space during the partial lockdown in Oslo, Norway. Mobile tracking data from thousands of recreationists were used to analyze high resolution spatio-temporal changes in activity. We estimated that outdoor recreational activity increased by 291% during lockdown relative to a 3 yr average for the same days. This increase was significantly greater than expected after adjusting for the prevailing weather and time of year and equates to approx. 86 000 extra activities per day over the municipality (population of 690 000). Both pedestrians (walking, running, hiking) and cyclists appeared to intensify activity on trails with higher greenviews and tree canopy cover, but with differences in response modulated by trail accessibility and social distancing preferences. The magnitude of increase was positively associated with trail remoteness, suggesting that green spaces facilitated social distancing and indirectly mitigated the spread of COVID-19. Finally, pedestrian activity increased in city parks, peri-urban forest, as well as protected areas, highlighting the importance of access to green open spaces that are interwoven within the built-up matrix. These findings shed new light on the value of urban nature as resilience infrastructure during a time of crisis. The current pandemic also reveals some important dilemmas we might face regarding green justice on the path towards urban planning for future sustainable cities.