Cleaner, safer cities are one good thing that could come out of the pandemic – if politicians hold their nerve
Some good can come of even the worst disaster. Amid all the suffering and difficulty of the pandemic, environmentally minded people spied a chance. Could the enforced immobility of life under Covid-19, the rediscovery of neighbourhood shops, parks and walks brought about by the closure of workplaces and schools, lead to a longer-term adjustment – a new car/life balance?
For decades, green thinkers and politicians have advocated for a less automobile-centric culture. Transport policy unites two big themes of environmental politics: the idea that many people need to be reconnected with local geographies, both physical and human; and opposition to pollution. This means greenhouse gases, of course, but also particulate matter and noise. An altered transport hierarchy, it has long been argued, is beneficial to health, since more walking and cycling means less obesity, respiratory illness and heart disease; reduced road traffic also means fewer injuries and deaths caused by collisions.