The COVID-19 pandemic outbreak has had a disruptive impact on the way we live and move in Lucca, with citizens and businesses severely affected by the crisis.
As a mobility assessor together with the city council, I have worked from the outset of the epidemic to mitigate the socio-economic impact of COVID-19 on mobility, as well as on other sectors relevant to the city.
Commerce and tourism in particular are suffering due to the crisis. To facilitate access to the city centre, the municipality has suspended some of the rules related to the restricted traffic zone operating there.
Now, after the national government has allowed municipal employees to return to work and lifted movement restrictions introduced during the emergency, the city is evaluating the effects of the pandemic on the mobility, and looking into how mobility can be can be improved and returned to its pre-pandemic role, evaluating how the pandemic’s impacts can be mitigated.
Obviously, we cannot forget that we live in an area with significant air quality problems, and we do not like the idea of returning to the same mobility situation as before. The environmental impact of the pandemic has been staggering: the lack of cars has contributed to a sudden drop in carbon dioxide emissions and pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter.
The lockdown has also created a positive and fundamental change in attitude when it comes to walking. We have already allocated resources for cycling, walking and traffic calming measures, and we are currently considering how to do more by accessing national and regional resources available for the post-COVID period (e.g. Decree 34/2020). This involves evaluating ways to boost cycling and micro mobility and reallocate road space from cars to pedestrians and cyclists. Action planned in the city’s SUMP can now accelerated (e.g. actions for cycling as doubling the length of the bike lane network before 2030).
We know that public transport will suffer, so we are collaborating with the transport company to implement transport systems safely and efficiently. At the same time, survey results show that people are becoming increasingly concerned about respecting social distancing on buses.
The Italian High Institute for Transport Education and Research (www.isfort.it) conducted a survey with 20,577 people on the impact of lockdown on Italian mobility behaviours. They found that those surveyed plan to use public transport 19% less post-COVID-19, and the perceived safety of public transport with respect to contagion was only rated at 3.5 on a scale from 1-10, where 10 denotes safety.
The Italian National Sharing Mobility Observatory (osservatoriosharingmobility.it) surveyed 12,688 people about their travel behaviours during the pandemic. They asked, in light of the COVID-19 emergency, what participants’ perceptions of the safety of local public transport is on their own health today. When given a scale of 1-5, whereby 5 denotes perceiving local transport as safe, participants only rated their perception of safety at 1.8. Furthermore, the percentage of people who report that they will continue to use public transport the same way they used to post-COVID-19 was only 43%.
It is important that steps are taken as the lockdown is eased to rebuild confidence in public transport so it doesn't result in people turning their backs on it. Moreover, commercial and freight transport must be made more sustainable in the city centre, as the crisis saw a substantial increase in home deliveries. Our work in CIVITAS SUMP-PLUS will help us better understand the needs of the mobility and transport sector.
We really hope to encourage mobility to help the economy recover according to sustainability objectives.
Indeed, we believe sustainable mobility can help foster economic (re-)growth in Lucca. After the coronavirus, let us not return to normality, but instead go towards better!
Author: Gabriel Bove