The Coronavirus pandemic has brought about a dramatic shift in the way people live their lives. Teleworking has become routine for many, the commute all but forgotten, and the consequences on urban life are monumental. Reflecting on these changes, the annual European Mobility Week, which Eurocities coordinates at European level, is an opportunity to share the lessons we have learned from the crisis that can help improve urban living. Underpinning these lessons is the understanding that public space is more precious now than ever.
As our mobility habits adapt, more and more people are switching to alternative forms of transport, especially walking and cycling. Cities have responded with aplomb by making space for these alternatives; and, consequently, reducing space for cars. The idea of making cities better places for people to live and work has been central to the way city administrations work for many years. However, the pandemic has shown how essential public transport workers are in keeping a city moving.
“This September, let’s start our journey to zero-emission mobility and a healthy lifestyle for all”
Many have welcomed the plummeting air and noise pollution, for which transport is usually one of the worst culprits, and are keen to take advantage of other unexpected consequences of the pandemic to start living a healthier and more active lifestyle. We can all play a part, in our own way, by making small changes every day. Many organisations are seeing the benefits of working from home. This also means there is less traffic on the roads, making walking or cycling more appealing.
In light of all this, it’s becoming easier to picture our urban future. The use of digital technologies has helped us navigate the crisis while their use in mobility services can encourage people to adopt healthier lifestyles. But the benefits of a digital lifestyle must be accessible for all, which is something we are also working on at Eurocities.
As we increasingly move our lives online, we still need to consider the impact of our changing behaviour. Online deliveries, where goods are transported via cargo bike within the city boundaries, are a fantastic example of how we can move towards a zero-emission planet. These issues will be central to Eurocities’ new project, ULaaDs, which will explore future challenges related to the on-demand economy and experiment with new models to keep our deliveries emission free.
Furthermore, our transport systems must remain accessible to all. Building barrier-free transport systems will ensure that the most vulnerable can move around and enjoy these benefits in the future. So, what can we do? Many of the solutions above are already being trialled and rolled out by cities across Europe. Perhaps, slowing down can be considered. 30 km/h zones are becoming more popular as cities reimagine urban life in a way that makes it safe, enjoyable and manageable for everyone.
This year, European Mobility Week will once again celebrate the European Union’s Urban Road Safety award, which was facilitated by Eurocities for the first time last year. The award recognises the invaluable efforts of cities in reducing road accidents while promoting sustainable mobility. The European level coordination of European Mobility Week has, over the last 20 years, seen the growth of key initiatives that support cities’ work in raising awareness of sustainable mobility.
The celebration of Car-Free Day, the establishment of pedestrian areas and pop-up bike lanes, as well as local campaigns to regain trust in public transport are now more important than ever as we aim to build back better post-pandemic.
This year, European Mobility Week focuses on ‘Zero-emission mobility for all’. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that we will never be safe until everyone is. This September, let’s start our journey to zero-emission mobility and a healthy lifestyle for all.