Moving Forward Series #5: Opening streets for people

The LEDS GP Transport Working Group is publishing a series of five papers co-authored by young people from around the world on sustainable recovery for the transport sector: Leveraging insights from COVID-19 response measures to drive more sustainable, inclusive and resilient transport systems. Seble Samuel co-authored the fifth paper in the series which traces the origins of the opening streets for people model and how it is successfully applied around the world.

Opening streets for people

The pandemic is fundamentally reshaping streets, providing a critical moment to rethink urban mobility systems and move beyond car-dominant models to design streets for people. The paper “Opening streets for people” outlines the transformative powers of this approach: to improve health outcomes and democratize public space for the use of the majority – pedestrians, cyclists and public transit users – but also to power economic regeneration as businesses take to the streets. Following the traditions and inspiration of open streets movements, experiences from India, Ethiopia and Mexico highlight how infrastructure for active mobility and progressive non-motorized transport policies can allow for cities that are decidedly different. These future realities, being piloted as elements of urban recovery, put people at the center of streets and transport planning to radically transform post-pandemic cities.

Seble Samuel, the co-author of this paper, is a geographer and urban planner with a BA from McGill University and an MSc from the University of Oxford. She is also a climate justice advocate and one of TUMI’s Remarkable Women in Transport 2020 and is part of the Young Leaders in Sustainable Transport programme 2020.

Paper Series “Moving Forward: Sustainable Recovery in Transport”

The COVID-19 pandemic is having a massive impact on mobility worldwide. With public transport authorities facing financial pressures and ridership dropping, equitable access through sustainable mobility is at risk. Guaranteeing access to economic, educational and societal opportunities through sustainable mobility options is at the center of equitable recovery. Protecting public transport, bike-sharing and other efficient and clean transport services will require concerted efforts from both the national and subnational levels. Economic stimulus packages by national governments and multilateral organizations offer an unprecedented opportunity to accelerate the transformation to sustainable, low carbon transport. Cities are deploying immediate measures, such as tactical urbanism, to facilitate social cohesion while enabling physical distancing and supporting the shift towards sustainable modes of transport. Such measures can drive permanent transformations to low carbon mobility in developing countries by harnessing innovative best practices into a “new normal” of mobility planning and investment.

This paper series aims to provide an understanding of economic, social and policy opportunities that can equip policy makers to create a transformative post-COVID-19 sustainable transport agenda and complement measures to make a case for sustainable transport and mobility in economic recovery packages. Sharing knowledge on positive measures and their potential to drive long-term change can support stakeholders in capitalizing on this critical moment. The series covers five topics related to sustainable, low-carbon transport with the underlying theme of a more equitable and sustainable post-COVID-19 world. The papers focus on activities in Asia but are covering examples from around the world, making use of the most valuable insights and outcomes.

The first paper of the series, written by Érika Martins Silva Ramos, provides an understanding of how COVID-19 has impacted sustainable transport and explains how governments are supporting recovery in the sub-sectors that were most affected (e.g., public transport). The second paper, written by Angel Cortez, discusses the opportunity for a Green Recovery of the transport sector in the context of its impact on emissions worldwide. The third paper, co-authored by Agnivesh Pani, focuses on sustainable freight deliveries post-COVID-19. In the fourth paper of the series, Cyprine Odada highlights how cities can increase employment opportunities by investing in sustainable transport and mobility systems.

As recovery continues, research, analysis, and capacity-building are vital to harness socio-economic and policy opportunities to sustainably transform transport systems and to ensure that responses to the crisis help us “build back better.”

This fifth paper was co-authored by Seble Samuel, and Chris Dekki, Angela Enriquez and Nikola Medimorec from the LEDS Transport Working Group.