Deloitte study: The pandemic speeds up big cities’ decisions to limit traffic and expand space for cyclists and pedestrians

Aurel Constantin 22/10/2020 | 17:48

The lockdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic seems to accelerate the changes already analyzed before by local authorities, such as transformation of city centers into more friendly areas for pedestrians and cyclists, according to Deloitte 2020 City Mobility Index.

Cities that have reclaimed street space from cars to enable physical distancing for cycling and walking are looking to cement those changes in a post-coronavirus world, shows the study, which measures mobility performance in 21 cities around the world, including seven European cities – Amsterdam, Barcelona, Dublin, Lisbon, London, Manchester, Rome and Stockholm.

In light of the study, private vehicles, once seen as the epitome of urban living, are facing escalating restrictions due to the intensifying repercussions of a city focused on automobiles – traffic congestion, degraded air quality, and road traffic incidents, including pedestrian accidents that often result in severe injuries or fatalities. Several cities have taken bold steps to counter these issues: Barcelona introduced traffic bans in specific areas, Stockholm, London, and New York City enforced hefty charges for personal car access to the city center, while Berlin prohibited diesel vehicles in certain parts of the city, exemplifying global efforts to curb these problems.

”Romanian largest cities are also facing an increasingly congested road traffic and therefore pollution. However, the infrastructure for active ways of travel, such as cycling lanes or pedestrian areas, is still poor. For example, in the Capital City, the authorities announced a project that includes building four cycling lanes routes, a total of 48 kilometers, which will link the existing bike track on Calea Victoriei to the most important four areas in Bucharest. But the implementation is slow and the tracks are difficult to use by cyclists in many cases,” said Ciprian Gavriliu, Tax Partner, Deloitte Romania.

Among the 21 cities participating in the study, six are considered successful in terms of environmental initiatives (including cycling infrastructure and measures to limit pollutant emissions) and five of them are European, namely Amsterdam, Barcelona, Dublin, Lisbon and Stockholm. Melbourne, Sydney and Riyadh are on the opposite side, with the least measures taken in this regard.

Another European city leads the ranking in terms of innovation in the mobility area, through measures such as access to 5G technology, use of digital payments, support for autonomous vehicles. London is the only city considered a global leader in this respect. Among the other European cities analyzed in the study, Amsterdam and Stockholm are considered successful in this field, while Rome is the lowest ranked in innovation.

On the other hand, the pandemic has extended the definition of safety to include hygiene, underlines the study. For many years in the past, safety in traffic has meant avoiding road accidents and preventing crime on public transport. As passenger numbers will pick up after the pandemic, a safe trip is also likely to mean one that is sanitary. For transport operators, that means employing a variety of measures, from temperature checks and new vehicle configurations, to more frequent services to reduce passenger loads. The risks of a return to normal without such measures are clear, given that the population remains reluctant to use public transport due to the risk ok contamination.

Deloitte City Mobility Index, conducted yearly since 2018, aims to measure the performance or urban mobility based on three indicators, namely performance, vision and accessibility.

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