The pandemic mobility breach in Barcelona

The pandemic mobility breach in Barcelona
A study of the Catalan newspaper El Periodico, published by journalist and scientific divulgator Michele Catanzaro, using data from the metropolitan Transport Authority of Barcelona, indicates that citizens from the poorest neighbourhoods have been using public transport three times more than the rest of the population during confinement. Low ownership rates of private transport among low-income citizens and impossibility to avoid commuting to jobs are factors cited to explain this trend. However, the map of the most mobile neighbourhoods also features some middle-class tourism-intensive neighbourhoods, whose high mobility rates might be tied to the temporary disappearance of the visitor economy in their neighbourhoods. As higher use of public transport hints at greater exposure to health hazard from contagion, it might be concluded, as indicated by some of the early SMARTDEST assumptions, that the immobilisation of the population (both resident and visiting) may have exclusionary effects as remarkable as those observed in regimes of hyper-mobility.
Access the article of El Periodico (in Spansh):

Cycling and walking for safe spaces after lockdown in cities, a “new normality”?

by Alejandro González, GRATET-URV. May 2020

Cities are planning mobility transitions for encouraging cyclists and pedestrians to travel while respecting social distancing.

The capital of Lombardy, the region most hit by Covid-19 in Italy[1] and among the most polluted regions in Europe, plans for a climate-friendly way out of the crisis. This initiative follows other big cities like Paris[2], London[3] or Berlin[4], which are taking advantage of this global crisis in the hope of encouraging cycling and walking to transition to a “new normality” safely. As alternatives to a doctrine shock[5], policies oriented to mobility justice could provide a roadmap for other cities.

Milan[6] has announced that 35km (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. The City Council wants to avoid the increase of pollution in the city during the stage of recovery, in which restrictions to avoid conglomerations in public transport are going to be implemented.

An unjust mobility system may well be related with the pandemic. Intercontinental transport is noted to have directly caused a rapid and global diffusion of the virus, that has subsequently provoked its collapse[7]. But also, the high carbon automobility system may be one of the most important contributors to fatality[8]. Other estimations suggest that more lives were saved due to the reduction in air pollution than those terminated by the virus[9]. Therefore, reducing polluting cars from streets may offer more chances to combat new (corona)virus outbreaks in cities and to make them more resilient.

However, far from being a new normality, Milan was also announced the suspension of the LEZs of the city until 31st of May[10]. Allowing all vehicles to enter, to circulate on public transport preferential lanes and all parking spaces are free for all[11]. Another side of the coin, the coronavirus might have prepared scenarios for shocking and transition. Which one will impose? Will governments take from granted the social de-escalation? Will climate and health prioritise come up on top? A critical analysis is deserved during next months and years to unmask the politics of mobility justice and virus.

[1] BBC (2020 March 22) Coronavirus: Lombardía, la región más golpeada de Italia anuncia medidas más estrictas para frenar el avance del covid-19 Retrieved from
[2] Carlton, R. (2020 April 22) Paris to Create 650 Kilometers Of Post-Lockdown Cycleways. Forbes. Retrieved from
[3] Harrabin, R. (2020 April 20). Coronavirus: Banning cars made easier to aid social distancing. BBC. Retrieved from
[4] Versti, L. (2020 March 27) Neuer temporärer Radweg am Kurfurstendamm. Berliner Morgen Post. Retrieved from
[5] Moreno, D. (2020 April 1) Naomi Klein: “La gente habla sobre cuándo se volverá a la normalidad, pero la normalidad era la crisis”. El Salto. Retrieved from
[6] Laker, L. (2020 April 21). Milan announces ambitious scheme to reduce car use after lockdown. The Guardian. Retrieved from
[7] Pierce, B. (2020) Covid-19: wider economic impact from air transport collapse. IATA. Retrieved from
[8] Carrington, D. (2020 April 20) Air pollution may be ‘key contributor’ to Covid-19 deaths – study. The Guardian. Retrieved from
[9] McMahon, J. (2020 Mar 16) Study: Coronavirus Lockdown Likely Saved 77,000 Lives In China Just By Reducing Pollution. Forbes. Retrieved from
[10] Interview with Cittadini per l’Aira by email on 08/05/2020 by the author
[11] Idem.


Tourism ‘bubbles’: towards new exclusionary practices?

The SARS-CoV-2 emergency has put into question recent patterns in international tourism. As a matter of fact, it may take some time before tourists are allowed to freely move around the globe again. Given the approaching summer, the tourism sector is increasingly concerned about whether, and eventually how, people could enjoy their holidays. Among other proposals to give new impetus to an industry severely affected by present-day forced immobility, tourism bubbles drew the attention of the SMARTDEST research team. In a nutshell: Australia and New Zeeland, which are on the right track to control the spread of the virus, started discussions around the possibility of creating a travel corridor – or “bubble” – to allow safe and healthy movements between these two countries. In other worlds, free movements would be restricted to tourists/residents of the neighbouring country only. As claimed by CNN, it’s not clear if and when this bubble could become a reality. Yet, the proposal is appealing to the point that Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz insinuated the possibility of establishing a corridor between Germany, Austria, and the Balkan Mediterranean regions, isolating de facto tourism destination in Italy or Spain. A situation worth monitoring since new temporary borders might engender long-lasting impacts.