Mobility. It is the glue that binds cities, societies, and civilizations together. What was just two months ago a necessity in conducting our daily routines has been (at least temporarily) disrupted to such an extent that 80–90% of intercity passenger demand for travel is expected to be eliminated entirely in 2020 alone.
However, given the extent and widespread external affects of the COVID 19 crisis on urban and global goods movement and urban mobility, we are starting to see opportunities to address the 1.) near term public health challenges and 2.) ensure a more environmentally sustainable future. In specific settings where countries, regions, and even cities have “flattened the curve” and are now passing the peak, there are specific examples of urban design that are looking to prevent a return to widespread single car usage, lure passengers back to public transport, and encourage forms of active transportation (walking, bicycling).
Milan, a car-free city
Milan, located in the region of Lombardy in the north of Italy, has been one of the hardest hit regions in the COVID 19 crisis. As Italy (as of this week) begins to slowly re-open certain types of businesses, a unique opportunity has been identified to take the city back from the automobile, which in this point in time would only be possible in the aftermath of a crisis such as this. Milan has announced that 22 miles of streets will be transformed over the summer, with a rapid, experimental citywide expansion of cycling and walking space to protect residents as COVID 19 restrictions are lifted. According to Marco Granelli, a deputy mayor of Milan, “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. Of course, we want to reopen the economy, but we think we should do it on a different basis from before.”
Pop-up bike lanes in Berlin
Germany, which began widespread testing and preemptive stay at home orders, has been seen as one of the global models for stabilizing the pandemic and ensuring a methodical return to normal economic activity. In the case of the Kreuzberg district of Berlin, pop-up bike lanes are being introduced as a creative solution to ensuring social distancing and preventing an increase in single car usage. The pop-up lanes include the temporary widening of two cycle lanes, which will help cyclists keep the required 1.5-meter distance apart while car traffic was down due to Germany’s coronavirus restrictions. The pilot has already been deemed a success because it has improved cycling safety while not hindering traffic. An expansion of the scheme on further roads in Kreuzberg, as well as in the Schöneberg and Tempelhof districts, is planned for the coming weeks.
Other trends in public transport, shared mobilities, and teleworking
At a higher level, we are also in the…