THE restrictions thrust on all of us by the coronavirus pandemic have changed, perhaps forever, the routines of our daily lives.

The necessity of staying at home and maintaining social distancing has, for example, fast-tracked our use of technology and prompted us to consider issues such as unnecessary travel, more flexible working environments and even how we engage with our loved ones.

As we prepare for a loosening of lockdown, a major priority in our planning is the need to enable continued social distancing and to provide all of our citizens with adequate personal space, regardless of their age or physical ability. If people are to have the confidence to return to our streets, our town and city centres, it is essential and inevitable that we urgently rethink how we use them.

Our personal, social and economic well-being depends on us quickly delivering many more people-focused spaces and traffic-free zones where our citizens can safely move freely and where businesses can begin to recover.

It’s strange and difficult in the context of a tragedy on the scale of Covid-19 to talk of anything as an opportunity. But that is what this crisis has created, an opportunity for Glasgow to become the modern, sustainable and people-friendly city it needs to be.

We already understand the need for Glasgow’s streets to become greener, more breathable and more accessible. Too many of our streets, both in the city centre and in the heart of our communities, remain among the most polluted in the UK. And we continue to lag behind many of the global cities we compete against for jobs, investment and opportunity in providing an accessible and attractive city environment.

The easing of the pandemic lockdown means that repurposing our streets is not just an ambition but a matter of urgency. People need the safe space and confidence to observe social distancing, get on with their lives and accelerate our recovery. We must respond to that need now.

In recent weeks the Cabinet Secretary for Transport and Infrastructure, Michael Matheson, announced the £10 million “Spaces for People” scheme to help support this. We’ve seen this immediately start to deliver, with the opening of the new Clydeside cycle lane, running along the river from the Saltmarket to the Clyde Arc and designed to ease pressure for pedestrians on the Clyde Walkway. The public response to the closure of Kelvin Way to all but pedestrians and cyclists has also been hugely positive.

The City Council has now bid for a share of that £10m to implement physical distancing measures as soon as possible. From widening pavements right through to entire road closures, different combinations of measures will be tried to fit the needs and characters of different neighbourhoods.

As vital as it is that more space is given to people in our city centre and town centres like Partick or Duke Street, it is perhaps even more important that communities on our peripheries feel the benefit. So many of our citizens live in high-density neighbourhoods, often without gardens and with low car ownership. They too need the space for safe social distancing.

And while I hope the uptake in active travel is a permanent legacy of this awful crisis, these measures must be about much more than cycling. We cannot neglect the needs of the tens of thousands of Glaswegians who have significant mobility challenges.

We have lots to build on. The Avenues project is already being rolled out, mirroring the redesign of Sauchiehall Street to create attractive thoroughfares where pedestrians and cyclists have priority. Work on transforming the underwhelming and traffic-choked experience of George Square into something Glaswegians deserve and can be proud of is continuing.

Traffic is restricted near many of our schools and our car-free days have been enjoyed across the city.

But the need for space is widespread and immediate. Safer streets are about restoring confidence, vibrancy, prosperity. They’re also about saving lives.

lAS Scotland edges towards some relaxation of lockdown, it is quite correct that we look afresh at the role of elected members in scrutinising the work of the Council. Like much else since March, our political structures have been disrupted by Covid-19.

It’s important to state that throughout this crisis, scrutiny has continued in Glasgow via the multi-party City Administration Committee. Major decisions affecting the lives of residents have continued to be taken and publicised through various channels. Tomorrow we will consider how best to extend that.

It’s equally important to remember though that we remain in an emergency situation. So much of the fragile easing of lockdown and of instigating our immediate recovery is the City Council’s responsibility. In the weeks ahead, the roll out of the Test, Trace, Isolate and Support strategy will see significant numbers of people required to isolated for a fortnight. The job of supporting them will fall to the council and will be a significant logistical challenge. Despite these new and considerable pressures, services continue to be delivered by a much-reduced workforce.

Until such time as we are through this, we need to weigh the risks between returning to political business-as-usual and diverting time and resource from where it is needed most. We must remain vigilant about how decisions are taken but also about where priorities and pressures lie.

Throughout this pandemic it has been encouraging to see many councillors respond to the needs of their communities. They have taken community leadership to the coalface and provided reassurance to so many. As our communities begin to re-emerge from this unprecedented crisis, councillors must strike a further balance between responding to the grassroots challenges Covid-19 continues to create and the reinstatement of all our committees and work programmes.