The COVID-19 related challenges encountered by Ghent, Lahti and Alberstlund and the way they addressed them while pursuing their efforts in implementing urban mobility strategies and projects were at the core of the discussions on Thursday 10th June during a dedicated session of the Regional Studies Association Festival – Regions in Recovery #RinR2021.
While the pandemic has added a new layer of difficulty for these cities, it also brought real opportunities to push towards more sustainable mobility. The modal share of walking, cycling and micromobility has risen since the beginning of the crisis, especially in Albertslund and Ghent. In Lahti, 30 % of people are now considering alternative modes of transport. At the same time though, most UIA cities also report an increase in car use and travelled kilometres. The use of public transport has also decreased, especially at the beginning of the pandemic, due to sanitary and safety concerns.
This clearly shows that the challenge related to behavioural change is even stronger as crises such as the pandemic have an immediate impact on mobility patterns. If sustainable transport options are not supported at and following moments of crises, sustainable or greener behaviour patterns, essentially collective transport, may suffer, compromising sustainability in the medium and longer terms. Covid-19 is unlike previous crises and may indeed lead to profound and lasting behavioural change.
As summarised in the UIA report ‘Innovations in urban mobility in the 2020s’, “the future depends in part on how cities react to this crisis. The essential response to the COVID-19 crisis implies a renewed integrated policy effort using the different levers that influence mobility choices, infrastructures, both physical and ICT-based, with, in addition, further development of outreach and ‘nudge’ policies such as those implemented by the UIA cities. Cities will need, at the very least, to re-make the case for the safety of public transport.”
Although the impact of the current pandemic has shown how visionary UIA projects are, such as the urban mobility projects or the SPIRE project in Baia Mare, the numerous reports of UIA experts available in the UIA knowledge Lab also demontrates that all UIA cities have faced disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic while implementing their innovative solutions. It clearly highlights that some lessons can already be learnt in order to help the cities to be better prepared in case of resurgence of the crisis. Peer-reviewing and identifying how COVID-19-induced challenges are experienced in different urban contexts in Europe, analysing their impacts on the implementation of projects and activities, and highlighting ways to overcome them will be at the core of another UIA knowledge activity to be launched by the end of 2021.
Stay tuned for more info and explore the UIA Knowledge Lab!