How Transportation & Mobility in Cities Will Change Post Covid-19
Did you ever imagine the world economy coming to a standstill? We are less than half way through 2020, but it has been the strangest and saddest in living memory. With many countries on lockdown cities have seen up to 90% decreases in use of public transportation and in traffic flows - with the rise of social distancing citizens are shunning traditional transport methods.
Will this continue post Covid 19? Can cities use this as a positive to drive a green transformation in their transportation systems - redesigning cities for people and nature rather than for cars and vehicles.
Re-Inventing Public Transportation & Public Spaces
While it is important to look at how the Covid19 has slowed public transport, it is equally important to analyse how the pandemic will impact urban mobility in the long run. During the lockdown cities across the globe, such as Wuhan, Berlin, Milan, Paris, London etc, have seen significant improvements in air quality.
However, this is not likely to be a long-lasting impact with public transit and mobility slowly reviving as cities lift their respective lockdown measures. Can we really just go back to how things were? Can we use this to create greener cities?
In fact, there is a worry that it could have a negative impact, there is some evidence in China that more people are opting to buy personal cars, regarding them as safer and more hygienic than public and shared transport. This is a worrying trend, especially if the cars are petrol or diesel rather than electric - if such developments were mirrored across the globe then it would have a very negative impact on global warming. It will also have a negative impact on quality of life and air quality in cities. In the near future, cities may look to introduce measures that drive down personal car use, such as charging more for road use and parking.
As a result, cities and their transport agencies need to take the bull by the horns, they need to implement forward thinking and long-lasting strategies that focus on air quality and liveability. For now, changes on public transport have included requiring passengers, drivers and conductors to wear face masks, gloves and to sanitise.
However, there are more strategies emerging in major cities that will not only restore activity, but could also have a longer lasting effect on mobility as we know it. If cities plan their strategies well then they can use this crisis to create environmentally friendly and more resilient public transport systems.
Cycling and Walking
Many cities are taking advantage of the decrease in traffic to redesign city centres - prioritising cycling and walking. Cities such as Berlin, New York City and Milan have opened up a network of cycling lanes - decisions that would usually take years to make are being made in days as Mayors and city leaders seize the moment to create long term change in their cities
Milan is using pop-up infrastructure to mark cycling lanes without disrupting the vehicle traffic to any great extent. The plan is to create a new biking culture that will remain in the city and see a positive permanent change.
The city of Bogota in Colombia has opened up around 72 miles of new bike routes, while in the UK Manchester is in the process of finding ways to create better cycling and pedestrian zones to ease congestion. On an almost daily basis we are hearing of another city that is using the crisis to change planning so that they can design out cars and vehicles. Such radical changes have not been seen before in such short timescales - it will be interesting to see if city leaders can maintain these pedestrian and cycling zones post Covid-19.
Every city also needs to look at hygiene on their public transportation systems - even with the opening of cycle lanes and pedestrian zones there will still be a great need for public transport when everyone gets back to some sort of work normality. Ensuring that the systems are hygienic is one way to help prevent a second wave.
Many countries are making it a requirement that people have to sanitise before getting on board, wear facemasks and have created barriers between drivers and the passengers, other hygiene solutions have been adapted that may well be a permanent feature for both public transit and buildings.
For example, more cities are embracing improved cleaning and disinfection mechanisms for transportation systems. Shanghai is using advanced Ultraviolet (UV) light to disinfect buses, trains and stations, while Hong Kong is using robots to carry out the disinfection and cleaning procedures.
In the UK, potential solutions being discussed include self-cleaning doors that have titanium handles which heat up via kinetic energy or incorporating infrared lighting that kill germs on escalator handrails.
Our public transport systems will look very different in the post Covid-19 world - it will be the responsibility of city authorities to create an environment that is healthy for everyone and the responsibility of all citizens to ensure that these new procedures and measures are a success.
The Here & Now & the Future
Public transport systems will look very different in the post Covid-19 world - it will be the responsibility of city authorities to create an environment that is healthy for everyone and the responsibility of all citizens to ensure that these new procedures and measures are a success.
The gradual opening up of cities and economies over the next few months will see many challenges for city leaders across the globe, but it will also create opportunities to be able to re-purpose cities so that they prioritise citizens at all times. The long lasting impacts of this could lead to cities that are more liveable, healthier and happier places for everyone and everything - not only humans, but nature too.
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