Live Session 2: What is Covid-19 Teaching Us About Sustainable Mobility

In this session, facilitated by Mario Alves, International Federation of Pedestrians, the panel explored the issues and solutions for sustainable mobility emerging from the COVID-19 response. Fewer cars, more pedestrians and cyclists and an efficient public transport system: how can we maintain active, safer mobility during the pandemic and once the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted?



Key outcome

Car ownership is concentrated amongst the most wealthy, particularly in low-income countries, with many reliant on walking. Additionally, we are all pedestrians at some points in our day-to-day living. Yet, infrastructure is concentrated on motorized transport. Walking and cycling need good quality infrastructure to enable and protect the most vulnerable.

Key opportunity for NGOs

We need to see safe roads in a broader context that doesn’t just focus on driver behavior but also promotes walking, cycling, and mass transit.

Key points

  1. Gains made must be seen in a wider context: including mass transport, walking, and cycling as part of the road safety agenda
  2. There may be a push for cars after the pandemic: car manufacturers may try to improve poor sales and people will be afraid to use public transport. We must address this, to look at what kind of cities we need and take cars out of crucial parts of our cities. 
  3. Equality issues: car ownership is concentrated among those in higher-income brackets, especially in low-income countries. In these countries, more people, those on lower incomes, primarily walk, yet governments fails to invest in good walking infrastructure. Mobility is a political problem with a political solution.
  4. Be wary of real time statistics: Data is being twisted in fake news to create panic. Data at a specific time can be used to create a false picture. Look to wider, more comprehensive data.
  5. Sustainable transport is an ecology of modes. For example, walking for journeys of 1-2 kilometers, cycling for 2-5 kilometers, public transport longer journeys, and private car for the longest journeys. Reinforce all these.

Strategy for NGOs

  • Push for investment in good quality walking infrastructure: particularly in developing countries where those on low-incomes are dependent on walking.
  • Combine data with storytelling to build a more compelling case. If data was compelling enough on its own, then lowering speeds would already have been achieved.
  • Build a stronger case through collaboration: by combining the dangers created by road crashes alongside the dangers created by other health issues.
  • Funding for neighborhood associations is important: They do a lot but are least funded.


Lake Sagaris is Professor of Planning for Sustainable Transport, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile and of the Centre for Sustainable Urban Development, Centre for Excellence BRT+, Chile. 

Ben Rossiter is the Executive Officer, Victoria Walks, Australia;

Pedro Homen de Gouveia is the Senior Policy and Project Manager, at the Polis Network, Belgium.