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 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, London or Berlin, 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, policies oriented to mobility justice could provide a roadmap for other cities.
Milan 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. But also, the high carbon automobility system may be one of the most important contributors to fatality. Other estimations suggest that more lives were saved due to the reduction in air pollution than those terminated by the virus. 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. Allowing all vehicles to enter, to circulate on public transport preferential lanes and all parking spaces are free for all. 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.
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 Interview with Cittadini per l’Aira by email on 08/05/2020 by the author