Will sustainable transport be affected in the months coming out of lockdown as we endeavour to maintain social distancing?
It seems that since the outbreak of Covid-19, cars seem to have given way to other, more environmentally friendly modes of transport such as walking and cycling. Granted this is because there are a lot less people going into work due to the governments lockdown restrictions and people are taking up new healthy hobbies, but it is giving the environment a much-needed rest. With the lockdown coming into play there have been large drops in pollution in major UK cities. In London, Bristol, Birmingham, and Cardiff we have seen tiny particle pollutions of a third to a half, and the same reduction in nitrogen oxide as well. Professor James Lee at York University has stated that the “air is definitely much healthier”.
Now, the problem we face post lockdown is the question of what will be done about public transport in the months after people return to work. The UK has a large public transport system in place such as the tube, trains, and buses that millions of people use every day to get to and from work. Although environmental costs do incur from this, there is no doubt that multiple people taking one journey it is a lot better for the environment than every individual getting in a car themselves to make the trip. Unfortunately, we are about to be faced with a large issue, getting around cities via public transport has been the norm for a number of years now, however, we must now take into account the new impact the spread of Corona Virus will have on this. Most of us that have experienced rush hour on the tube on a busy weekday morning in a large station in Central London such as Liverpool Street will know that it is near impossible to keep two meters away (the distance needed to avoid catching COVID-19 from an infected person) from anyone.
Coming out of lockdown it will be interesting to see what methods the government puts in place to avoid the unnecessary spread of Corona Virus, and how the public react to being sensible in these times. Will we avoid public transport to prevent a second outbreak of the virus, returning to individual and less environmentally modes of transport, or when restrictions are lifted will we go back to how we were before with using it every day. After Boris’ announcement on Sunday stating that workers who cannot work from home are now being “actively encouraged” to go into work if they must, we have already seen images from Monday morning of busy tube platforms and an increase in the use of personal cars when the restrictions were put in place from Wednesday.
Fortunately, the government have begun to turn their focus towards modes of transport that do not increase CO2 emissions such as encouraging people to use bikes as a safer way of getting around, and British Cycling have called upon the Government to recommend cycling further. We realise that this pandemic has been detrimental to the economy and that public transport should be avoided at all costs to avoid spreading the virus further, however, we really hope that as we come out of lockdown the measures taken to do so safely are done with the environment in mind. There has been huge amount of progress made with the lowering of emissions in this time, and although it is devastating that it has taken something as awful as this to reduce our carbon footprint, we must continue to remember that there is no planet B and have this as a focus going forwards.
It is a topic that can provide us with lots of debate and we would be very interested to hear your thoughts on the matter!