When countries imposed lockdown measures to tackle COVID19, levels of air pollution from traffic and other sources plummeted. As cities begin to reopen, just under two out of every three people (64%) on average said they do not want to go back to pre-Covid pollution levels, in an international survey of public opinion in six European countries across six European countries. Roughly the same proportion (68%) agreed that cities must take effective measures to protect citizens from air pollution, even if it means preventing polluting cars from entering city centres to protect clean air, with as many as 63% of drivers themselves in support. Around three quarters (74%) of respondents said cities must take effective measures to protect citizens from air pollution, even if this requires reallocating public space to walking, cycling and public transport, with just 10% opposed.
Sascha Marschang, Acting Secretary General of the European Public Health Alliance (EPHA), said: “People have taken a deep breath of clean air and decided to keep it. Now the invisible killer is visible: air pollution made us sick, worsened the pandemic and hit the most deprived the hardest. Reducing health inequalities by designing a pollution-free city transport system cannot wait any longer.”
William Todts, Executive Director at clean transport NGO Transport & Environment (T&E), said: “Europeans are demanding more bike lanes, safer public transport and fewer polluting cars. And the mayors of Paris, Brussels and London are building on this overwhelming public support by expanding cycling lanes and reinstating low-emission zones. The challenge now is to make these ‘temporary’ sustainable measures permanent, replace polluting cars with shared, electric vehicles and get other cities to follow suit.”
When surveyed online for T&E and EPHA between 14 and 21 May 2020, the 7,545 adults of voting age in Italy, Spain, Germany, France, the UK and Belgium gave remarkably consistent answers, despite their various economic, class, age and gender backgrounds.
While 14% of the city dwellers surveyed tended to cycle on work days before lockdown, now one in five (21%) plan to cycle more when lockdown ends fully. For walkers, the figures are 32% and 35% respectively.