Mobility. It is the glue that unites cities and people. Just two months ago it marked our daily routines on jobs and leisure. Today it was (temporarily) stopped to the point that in 2020 alone 80-90% of the demand for transport between cities will fail.
In the general disaster, however, the situation screamed two possibilities in our face. First, that of giving a turn to the health system. Second, to ensure a more sustainable environment. Public transport, on the subject, does their part.
In some contexts we see specific examples of urban design that try to prevent a return to the massive use of single cars, aim to attract passengers to public transport and encourage active forms of transport (on foot, by bicycle).
Milan, a city without a car
Beautiful Milan was among the worst affected cities in the most affected region, Lombardy. While in Italy some types of activities are starting to reopen (hopefully with caution), Milan announced that during the summer 22km of roads will be transformed into cycle paths, to reach 35km by the year. A rapid citywide expansion of space for cyclists and pedestrians. Marco Granelli, deputy mayor of Milan, says “we have been working for years to reduce the use of cars. If everyone drives a car, there is no room for people, there is no room to move, there is no space for businesses outside the shops. Sure, we want to reopen the economy, but we think we should do it on a different basis than before. "
Berlin, cycle paths like mushrooms
Germany, which has begun widespread testing and preventative home quarantine orders, has been seen as one of the global models for stabilizing the pandemic and ensuring a return to normal economic activity. In the case of Berlin's Kreuzberg district, “pop-up” cycle lanes are being introduced as a creative solution to ensure social distancing and prevent an increase in the use of single cars. The pop-up lanes include the temporary widening of two cycle lanes, which will help cyclists maintain the required distance of 1,5 meters while car traffic is declining due to German coronavirus restrictions. A first pilot project has already been considered a success because it improved cycling safety without obstructing traffic. An expansion of the program on further roads in Kreuzberg, as well as in the two districts of Schöneberg and Tempelhof, is planned for the coming weeks.
Other trends in public transport, shared mobility and teleworking
We are witnessing transformations in urban mobility that will change the fabric of cities and displacements for decades to come. Three aspects that must be put in synergy are i public transport, micro-mobility and telework.
Public transportation, to remain relevant and return to its central role in moving the largest number of passengers in urban environments, it will have to guarantee sufficient social space (especially in buses and trains) and must be reconfigured accordingly.
In addition, adequate hand hygiene procedures and frequent cleaning procedures for stations and rolling stock will need to be actively implemented on public transport to get all passengers back.
Shared mobility, including micro-mobility, car sharing and rental with driver are other crucial components of urban mobility. Each individual modality will be affected differently by the crisis. The return to "a normalcy" means a better understanding of the long-term commercial viability of each scheme.
And then there is the telework, or "smart working" as we call it now (technically they wouldn't be the same thing). It is currently being used by many companies during the crisis. It will become more common in the future. As managers realize that many tasks do not require a typical presence at a desk or around a table, the daily peak of commuters in cities will subside. The change in mobility will be fluid and may not be possible to measure in the short term. One of the "positive" causes, however, could be a higher percentage of smart working.
In summary: Europe and other regions of the world that are beginning to return to normal and reopen their economies will see change accelerate.