Creutzig, F., Lohrey, S., Franza, M.V.

Shifting urban mobility patterns due to COVID-19: comparative analysis of implemented urban policies and travel behavior changes with an assessment of overall GHG emissions implications

in Environmental Research: Infrastructure and Sustainability, 23.09.2022

Peer Review , Land Use, Infrastructure and Transport

COVID-19-induced confinements rapidly change behavioural patterns and social norms of street space use worldwide. In the following study we compile data to assess shifting urban mobility during confinement (phase 1), and in reaction to COVID-19 induced physical distancing policies (phase 2). In a comparative analysis of 16 cities, we show that public transit decreased by 80% during confinement, but individual motorized transport only by 64%. Cycling modal share increases in some cities. COVID-19 and sustainability are intertwined via risks, susceptibility, and positive and negative outcomes, in particular via SDG3 (health), SDG5 (gender equality), SDG11 (sustainable cities) and SDG13 (climate action). Confinement-induced social gains are realized in reduced congestion, improved air quality, and less accidents, partially compensated by unhealthy eating, and domestic violence. Our analysis reveals that cities around the world provided more space for cyclist and pedestrians as part of pandemic-related measures, pedestrianizing streets, implementing 550 km ad-hoc bicycle infrastructure and planning additional 1500 km. Our computation indicates that GHG emissions savings due to increased uptake of cycling in the EU reduced urban land transport GHG emissions by 0.3% (1 Mt CO2), while GHG emission savings were larger in cities with pop-up bicycle lanes (between 0.43% and 1.87%). Our findings also demonstrate that proactive cities had already plans in their drawers and demonstrated institutional alignment of vocal civil society, administrations and politicians. We argue that long-term sustainability trajectories of cities will depend on transformation of both physical and digital infrastructures.