As society is returning to normality after the COVID-19 pandemic, urban planning should be brought to the forefront of discussions about mental health. The realization of how much our environment impacts us must not be overlooked, as urban environments, although convenient for many, have many negative implications. Living in urban areas is shown to increase mood disorders by up to 39% and increase anxiety disorders by up to 21%. This essay highlights areas of Bucharest that display great urban planning intention but poor execution. 
Piata Romana intersection
Even the briefest of social interactions plays a tremendous role in offering a sense of belonging and are linked to positive impacts on well-being. Bucharest typically has wide streets but often neighbourhoods have narrow or nonexistant sidewalks. 
Covrigi Store in Pipera

Small stores and cafes on the street promote people going outside at all hours and having small interactions. Supporting these stores is vital, as without proper placement and infrastructure their existence is compromised. 

Book Sale
Small Store near Universitate
Centru Vechi (Old Town) Nobis Restaurant

Restaurants and walking-only areas act as social hubs for locals and tourists alike. Warm colors, dim lighting and live performances promote socialization and strengthen community. 

Piata Universitatii Underpass
Piata Universitatii
Landmarks and communal spaces are a great way to create and maintain community inside a city. Piata Universitatii is always full of people, especially during the holiday season. Research links walking with lower symptoms of chronic mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression. Lack of public funding towards places like this result in grey and littered streets.
Trees next to road
People on bench

Green spaces play a crucial role in wellbeing. Accessible and safe spaces where people can enjoy nature and enjoy physical activity have been shown to reduce rates of depression and anxiety

“Places with green spaces experience less violence, it helps to build community” says AISB Counselor Vera den Otter.

Sector 1 - Parcul Cismigiu
Sector 2 - small park in pockets between apartment blocks

Green spaces and playgrounds are also vital for the development of children. In Bucharest, there is a lack of funds or interest for the maintenance of these spaces, leaving them littered and dirty. UNICEF underlines that green spaces, when equally available, help reduce the health inequities suffered by socio-economically disadvantaged children.

Car at night
Traffic Lights

Bucharest is notorious for its traffic, another product of its poor city planning. Bucharest is the most congested city in the world based on the number of hours its residents lose in a year due to congestion.

 
Pipera Metro Station
Piata Victoriei Metro
Tram 21

Adoption of public transportation paired with proper infrastructure would solve traffic issues while also allowing for the space and all other resources used by cars to be used more effectively. It is cheaper, more environmentally friendly and is more accessible. It also allows for small social interactions, like the one shown above, to take place. It’s vital for governments to keep funding projects that aim to improve efficiency and expand public transportation.

Community orgnized garden

Communities often take initiative where local authorities do not meet needs. Romanian NGO De-a Arhitectura has programs working with children, including state schools, teaching them basic urban planning and architecture knowledge, “increasing the involvement of future citizens in the planning and design processes that will affect their own living environment.” 

Being aware of the impact of our environment on our wellbeing is crucial for increasing life quality. 

Authors