Preventing a transportation ‘relapse’

In many U.S. cities, COVID-19 lockdowns resulted in dramatically less car traffic, less air pollution, and expanded bike lanes. Aaron Bernstein of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health would like to see these improvements result in lasting change.

“As cities begin to carefully return to some state of normalcy in the coming months, we could easily backslide into gridlocked streets—or we could pivot towards a low-carbon, low-pollution transportation future,” wrote Bernstein, interim director of the Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment (Harvard Chan C-CHANGE), in an August 8, 2020 CommonWealth Magazine article he co-authored. “Our climate and our health are at stake.”

The article noted that transportation is responsible for most air pollution and greenhouse-gas emissions. Air pollution damages health, is linked with millions of premature deaths each year, and appears to increase mortality among those infected with COVID-19. And greenhouse-gas emissions lead to climate change, which—in spite of the current COVID-19 health crisis—is still the largest public health challenge facing the world, according to the authors.

“A relapse into greater reliance on single-occupancy vehicles and abandonment of public transit would also be an utter moral failure with ripple effects that impact everyone,” the authors wrote. They called for making trains and buses safe and reliable post-pandemic world and prioritizing more bike lanes and walking corridors.

Read the CommonWealth Magazine article: How do we avoid a transportation relapse?