For the last several months the word “pandemic” turned from some TV show on Netflix to a reality we live in today. Initially, we all hoped that it would pass, and life would be “as before”. It’s obvious now that we have to admit the problems we tried to ignore for a long time. We are talking not only about public health, abuse of power and economic issues but about the everyday life of an ordinary person.
For the majority of European cities, the quarantine is over. However, the virus is still out there, and we have to take precautions not to let it spread. Public transportation represents the most significant threat of post-quarantine existence. For example, in London, one of the busiest cities in Europe, even when the service of public transportation is running at their pre-quarantine capacity, the network will only be able to carry up to 15% of its passengers. Mike Brown, London’s transport commissioner, advises people to “continue work from home where they can and avoid public transportation wherever possible.”
City authorities of European cities encourage their citizens to walk or to cycle.
For example, mobility officials of Brussels are already executing the plan of adding 40 km of cycling paths to the major regional routes. The Minister of the Government of the Brussels-Capital Region, responsible for Mobility, Public Works and Road Safety, Elke Van den Brandt, said: “The situation isn’t perfect, but never before so many cycling paths have been built in Brussels in so little time”. Regional authorities, in collaboration with local officials, have also initiated a project called “Slow Streets”, where the maximum speed limit for cars is 20 km/h, and there is more secure space for pedestrians and cyclists.
In Germany, Health Minister Jens Spahn recommended cycling as the healthiest option for trips around the city. Now German cities are redrawing road markings to create “pop-up” cycle lanes for cyclists commuting to work.
The other issue that cycling advocates suggested was the air pollution which increased coronavirus death rates.
“The coronavirus is showing us that clean air is an indispensable asset,” said DUH’s chair, Jürgen Resch. “It is now especially important to provide more safety for people on their bikes. It will help improve air quality, enables exercise in fresh air while keeping a safe distance and avoids unnecessary accidents.”
The independent citizen movement of Brussels raised the same question of air pollution in their area. “The quality of air in our city is far from being ideal”, says Pierre Dornier, the main speaker of the movement “Les chercheurs d’air”. “It exceeds the WHO recommendations for PM2.5. A decrease in using cars and choosing alternative transport like cycling would lead to a reduction of NO2 emissions, for sure”.
Mostly we use our cars to get to work and return home. But the majority of us live within 10-15 km of our workplace. And if we switch to an e-bike, we will spend the same amount of time to get to work as if it was in our car. But without air pollution and traffic jams. “Today, thanks to the electric bikes, it’s easy to travel distances up to 15-20 km without sweat or without getting tired”, says Julien Jamar, co-founder of “Kameo bikes”, a partner of BZen bikes in Belgium. “It’s with the reach of everyone. It’s just a question of choice”.
We, at BZen bikes, believe that this sanitary crisis teaches us to be more responsible for our actions. Pierre Detry, the CEO of BZen bikes, says: “Covid-19 is providing an invitation, an invitation to people to have a test-drive of a good e-bike, to change their habits, their lifestyle. I’m sure it’s a moment of truth, an opportunity that will help us to change. First forced by social distancing people will choose an e-bike instead of public transportation; later, I’m sure it will become their conscious choice to use it as often as possible”.
The long-lasting negligence that we expressed towards the ecology caught us up, and with this new reality of social-distancing, we have to make significant changes in the way we live, move and breathe.