Transforming Cities After Lockdown: More Bikes, Less CarsBy Alejandro Enríquez | Mon, 05/04/2020 - 15:16
COVID-19 forced a lockdown in major cities across the planet. Fewer people are at offices, fewer business remain open and fewer cars circulate on the streets. Across the world, authorities have started to rethink the way the conceive cities – and cars – and whether this implies the end of traffic congestions or an increase in EVs.
According to the BBC, pollution in major cities across the world has significantly reduced thanks to COVID-19 lockdown measures. In Delhi, India, pollution was reduced by 75 percent, in Paris by 70 percent, in Milan by 40 percent and, according to the UN, the world will see between a 5.5 and 5.7 percent fall in CO2 levels due to the pandemic.
Paris and Milan have already announced that cars coming back to the cities after lockdown is "out of the question." According to CityLab, Paris' Mayor Anne Hidalgo announced last Tuesday that “pollution is already in itself a health crisis and a danger — and pollution together with coronavirus is a particularly dangerous cocktail. So it is out of the question to reach the heart of the city by car, when it could actually aggravate the situation." France will ease its lockdown measures on May 11. The "anti-car" program Hidalgo is going to implement was already present in the Mayor's agenda, but it has been strengthened due to lockdown unintended consequences. The plan includes eliminating car lanes and parking spots to create wider sidewalks and greenery.
Following this path, Milan intends to prevent a resurgence of cars in the city. According to The Guardian, city officials announced a plan to transform 35km of streets over the summer. Expanding walking and cycling space will be a priority as using bicycle has proven to be a "social distanced" transportation option. “We worked for years to reduce car use. If everybody drives a car, there is no space for people, there is no space to move, there is no space for commercial activities outside the shops," said Milan's Deputy Mayor, Macro Granelli to The Guardian.
Latin America is also riding the wagon. Bogota, Colombia's capital city, closed 117km of streets to cars to make them more accessible to bikes and pedestrians during the lockdown. “COVID-19 safety now piles up with all the other advantages of cycling in Bogota and we are exploring other measures, in addition to new cycle lanes, that should increase not only infrastructure but also access to bicycles and other safe and clean transportation alternatives," said Carolina Urrutia, Bogota's Environment Secretary to the BBC.
Mexico City, unlike other major cities int he world, has not experienced a considerable decrease in pollution levels. According to industry analyst, Cas Biekmann: "An increase of fossil fuels in the domestic sphere and open-air garbage storage worsens the air quality. Furthermore, industrial activity surrounding the city, forest fires and ashes from volcano Popocatepetl are added to the mix." In the city, mobility has been reduced around 60 percent, although the figure varies highly from week to week. Regardless of the COVID-19 lockdown, Mexico City's Minister of Mobility (SEMOVI) had already implemented a short-term strategy to create "safe and secure infrastructure with universal access for walking and biking," according to SEMOVI's Strategic Plan for Mobility 2019. Mexico City currently has 194km of bicycle lanes and over 2020, another 40 km will be built. Whether the capital city will transform its car lanes into sidewalks or bicycle lanes remains an opportunity to alleviate the 45-days-per-year a car driver spends on traffic congestions, according to el Universal.