The cornerstone of London’s nighttime economy isn’t nightlife, but nurses, drivers and delivery people

A night bus driver in 2010. Image: Getty.

Since the 1950s, New York has been fondly known as the “city that never sleeps”. But over the past decade, cities across Europe and the US have begun to take the notion of a “24-hour city” more seriously. Having recognised the economic value of night-time activities, cities such as Amsterdam and London have appointed night-time mayors to help foster the night economy.

In London, these efforts have taken the form of a Night Time Commission, set up by the previous mayor, Boris Johnson, just a few months before Sadiq Khan took over in 2016. Khan then appointed a Night Czar, Amy Lamé, to oversee the development of the city’s first ever 24-hour strategy, together with the commission.

Their vision, released in July this year, focuses on supporting the arts, entertainment and hospitality industries favoured by a “creative class”, that supposedly helps cities to thrive. But in reality, culture and nightlife are only one small part of the night-time economy.

Beyond pubs and clubs

Actually, transport and storage, and health and social care sectors have the largest shares of people working at night.

Night time workers by sector. Image: London's 24-Hour Economy, London First.

As shown in the figure above, arts and entertainment only account for 6.4 per cent of the employment in the night time economy, and hotels, restaurants and bars 13.4 per cent.

Reports show that the sectors with the highest economic impact are logistics and deliveries, followed by professional and social services and health and social work. While the entertainment and recreation industries may have a more visible presence on the city’s streets, they actually generate the least economic activity, contributing only £1.3bn to the total £40.1bn estimated impact.

Yet the narrow focus on London’s nightlife has led to the creation of a strategy which seeks to meet the needs of a relatively privileged part of the city’s population, and fails to reflect the true diversity of the night-time economy. This imbalance is also reflected in the Night Time Commission, which does not include representatives from the health and care sector, for instance.

The result has been a strategy which caters mainly for cultural consumers in the night time economy. There is less consideration of those who actually make the night time economy work, not only at the weekend but also during the week. It’s important to support nightlife venues, especially since they’ve undergone a massive wave of closures over the past few years. But London’s current 24-hour strategy does not pay enough attention to issues of unfairness and inequality affecting the city’s night-time workforce.

The trouble with transport

The types of goods and services provided at night suggest that night-time workers might fit a particular demographic profile. Employees from logistics, transport, health and social care sectors tend to be in lower paid jobs, and live further from the workplace, doubling the burden of travel cost and time. Because of this, efficient, affordable transport is a major issue for these workers.

A map of the distribution of workers in night time economy sectors. Image: Jenny McArthur/author provided.

London’s night-time workers rely on off-peak services – with lower frequencies and greater chances of scheduled engineering works, this often leaves them with very limited travel options. Night buses are currently the only mode of transport available between 1am and 5am during the week – and TfL surveys show that they are essential for night workers: 51 per cent of passengers use the service to travel to or from work.

Our research explores the role of night time transport and the movement of low-paid workers around the city lend weight to these concerns. For example, evidence from the Royal College of Nursing – which has a high proportion of night-time workers – noted that healthcare workers finishing shifts between 12am and 2am are left with a slimmer service, facing longer waits, more changes and longer journeys.

What’s more, workers on the twilight shift face the prospect of sharing public spaces with people under the influence of alcohol and drugs, which can pose a threat to their safety.


Building a 24-hour city

Night time strategies are a tremendous opportunity to build cities that are more sustainable; for instance, reducing congestion by moving some transport, retail and logistics activities to the night time. But if more people are to work at night, then the needs of low-paid, night-time workers have to be better understood and accounted for within these strategies.

In Sweden for instance, 24-hour childcare services are available to parents working at night. When it comes to transport, this could be achieved through developing more frequent night bus services and expanding the night tube offer outside of weekend, focusing on tube lines that are directly serving the needs of night-time workers.

The ConversationIf the aim of the 24-hour strategy is to boost the night time economy, it’s vital to recognise the valuable contribution of these non-recreational activities, and come up with a plan which serves the needs of these workers, who make the night time economy a reality.

Enora Robin, PhD Candidate in Urban Governance (Cities, Networks and Knowledge Management), UCL; Emilia Smeds, Doctoral Student (Urban Governance for Sustainability), UCL, and Jenny McArthur, Postdoctoral Research Associate in Urban Governance (Infrastructure Governance, Policy and Planning), UCL.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

 
 
 
 

America's cities can't police their way out of this crisis

Police deployed tear gas during anti-racism demonstrations in Los Angeles over the weekend. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

As protesters took to the streets across the United States over the weekend to express their anger at police killings of unarmed black Americans, it was hard to miss the hypocrisy coming from local authorities – including the otherwise progressive, left-leaning officials who are in power in most major American cities. 

Many US mayors and their police chiefs had issued public statements over the past week that seemed – only briefly, as it turned out – to signal a meaningful shift in the extent to which the Black Lives Matters movement is being taken seriously by those who are in a position to enact reforms. 

The sheer depravity of the most recent high-profile killing had left little room for equivocation. George Floyd, 46, died last Monday under the knee of white Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, while three additional officers helped to hold Floyd down, doing nothing to aid him as he begged for them to stop and eventually lost consciousness. The officers had been attempting to arrest Floyd on suspicion of having used a counterfeit $20 bill at a deli. All four have since been fired, and Chauvin was arrested Friday on charges of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. 

“The lack of compassion, use of excessive force, or going beyond the scope of the law, doesn’t just tarnish our badge—it tears at the very fabric of race relations in this country,” Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore told the Washington Post in response to the Floyd case. Meanwhile Moore’s boss, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, on Friday claimed that he understood why his city, which is no stranger to police brutality, was protesting. “We absolutely need as a nation, certainly as a city, to voice our outrage, it’s our patriotic duty to not only stand up for George Floyd but for everybody who has been killed unnecessarily, who’s been murdered for the structural racism that we have in our country,” Garcetti said. 

Normally, US police chiefs and mayors tend to ask citizens to withhold judgment on these types of cases until full investigations can be completed. But a 10-minute video recording of Floyd’s killing had made what happened plain. Police chiefs across the country – and even the nation’s largest police union, which is notorious for defending officer abuses – similarly condemned the actions of the Minneapolis officers, in a rare show of moral clarity that, combined with the arrest of Chauvin, offered at least a glimmer of hope that this time things might be different. 

As the events of the weekend have since shown, that glimmer was all too fleeting. 

In city after city over the past three days, US mayors and their police chiefs made a series of the same decisions – starting with the deployment of large, heavily armed riot units – that ultimately escalated violent confrontations between officers and protesters. Images widely shared on social media Saturday and Sunday nights made it clear that members of law enforcement were often initiating the worst of the violence, and appeared to treat protesters as enemy combatants, rather than citizens they were sworn to protect. 


In New York City, two police SUVs were seen plowing into a crowd of protesters, while elsewhere an officer was recorded pulling down a young protester’s coronavirus mask in order to pepper spray his face

In Louisville, the city where Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old black woman was fatally shot by police on 13 March, state police in riot gear were captured confiscating and destroying protesters’ supplies

In Minneapolis, forces opened fire with nonlethal rounds on residential streets, much to the shock of homeowners standing on their own front porches. 

Images of police pushing or shoving peaceful protesters were almost too numerous to count, including, in Salt Lake City, an elderly man with a cane

In many places, police also targeted journalists who were covering the protests, firing at clearly identifiable media crews with rubber bullets, injuring and even arresting reporters

Some protesters did commit acts of vandalism and looting, and the leaders of cities where that happened generally responded in the same ways. 

First, they blamed “outside agitators” for the worst protester behaviour, a claim that harkens all the way back to the civil rights era and for which the evidence is murky at best

Next, they enacted sudden curfews with little to no warning, which gave law enforcement an excuse to make mass arrests, in some cases violently. 

In a pair of widely criticized moves, Garcetti of Los Angeles closed the city’s Covid-19 testing centers and suspended the entire mass transit system Saturday evening, stranding essential workers on their way home from daytime shifts. Late Sunday night in Chicago, the city’s public school system halted its free meal distribution service for low-income children, citing “the evolving nature of activity across the city”.  

Governors in at least 12 US states, in coordination with city leaders, have since called in National Guard troops to “help”. 

At this point it’s clear that the leaders of America’s cities are in desperate need of a radically different playbook to respond to these protests. A heavily armed, militarised response to long-simmering anger toward the heavily armed, militarised approach to American policing is more than ironic – it’s ineffective. Granting police officers wider latitude to make arrests via curfews also seems destined to increase the chances of precisely the tragic, racially biased outcomes to which the protesters are reacting. 

There are other options. In places such as Flint, Michigan, and Camden, New Jersey – both poor cities home to large black populations – local law enforcement officials chose to put down their weapons and march alongside protesters, rather than face off against them. In the case of Camden, that the city was able to avoid violent clashes is in no small part related to the fact that it took the drastic step of disbanding its former police department altogether several years ago, replacing it with an entirely new structure. 

America’s cities are in crisis, in more ways than one. It’s not a coincidence that the country has tipped into chaos following months of emotionally draining stay-at-home orders and job losses that now top 40 million. Low-income Americans of colour have borne a disproportionate share of the pandemic’s ravages, and public health officials are already worried about the potential for protests to become Covid-19 super-spreading events.

All of this has of course been spurred on by the US president, who in addition to calling Sunday for mayors and governors to “get tough” on protesters, has made emboldening white nationalists his signature. Notably, Trump didn’t call on officials to get tough on the heavily armed white protesters who stormed the Michigan Capitol building over coronavirus stay-at-home orders just a few weeks ago. 

US mayors and their police chiefs have publicly claimed that they do understand – agree with, even – the anger currently spilling out onto their streets. But as long as they continue to respond to that anger by deploying large numbers of armed and armored law enforcement personnel who do not actually live in the cities they serve, who appear to be more outraged by property damage and verbal insults than by the killings of black Americans at the hands of their peers, and who are enmeshed in a dangerously violent and racist policing culture that perceives itself to be the real victim, it is hard to see how this crisis will improve anytime soon. 

Sommer Mathis is the editor of CityMetric.