Covid-19 changed the way we think about mobility in and outside of urban centers. But what’s coming now it’s what will redefine the future of our societies. The moment for “the big battle” arrived, between those who will fight for a “greener agenda” and those who want to go back to normality in the previous terms.
Charles Landry is warning us, the international consultant that invented the concept of creative city, who is also the curator of Portugal Mobi Summit since its first edition in 2018. Landry, who was the first guest of the series of interviews by PMS2020, looks to this pandemic as a chance to rethink the way cities are planned. But everything will depend on who will win this battle.
“we are facing a process that it’s putting us in an internal conflict between the benefits and the losses that we had with the new working models and with the imposition of social distancing.”
Although everyone recognizes that its far better to live in a planet without traffic jams or toxic levels of pollution, on the other hand, the need of social distancing provoked by Covid-19 scared away most people from public transportation: “the automobile is, in these days, the safest solution taking into account the protection of public health, but we all know that this is not a sustainable option for the environment”
It’s these “two forces moving in opposite directions” that make the path forward so uncertain. After becoming costumed to smart-working, people will actually start questioning if it makes sense to face traffic jams every day to go to work. “With digital platforms saving time, money and emissions, there will certainly be a considerable part of the population that will want to divide the week between home and office”. Circulation of vehicles will might be reduced, but we cannot forget the impact of the decrease in oil prices for the use of private cars: “Micro-mobility – bicycles and scooters – might end up being reinforced in cities, although it doesn’t solve the long distance trips.”. The scale swings from one side to the other, but “at the end of the day”, everything depends on the policies that cities will adopt from now on, warns Landry: “My hope is that the sustainability and decarbonization agenda will impose itself with even more urgency than before, but I recognize that it won’t be easy, mainly because public transportation became a sensitive issue”.
Therefore, there isn’t a clear path emerging from this pandemic. But, as in many other situations, also in mobility and urban planning there won’t be one answer: “Each city will find its own policies and strategies” says Charles Landry. Those who where already committed with energetic transition will continue to chase that goal, but they will have to deal with this “duality” between what is best for public health and sustainable solutions. “We are all looking for answers” explains the British consultant, reminding us that, also during the pandemic, countries and cities assumed different strategies – one with more restrictions to circulation than others. “I am convinced that also in this next phase there will be more individualized paths” concludes the specialist in urban planning.
Vídeo: interview with Charles Landry