COVID-19 introduced demand for physical distancing. WRI guided the rapid implementation of safer, more sustainable cycling infrastructure and public transport systems in multiple cities and countries throughout the world.

The Challenge

The COVID-19 pandemic generated urgent demand for walking and biking routes that offer both space for physical distancing and protection from road safety risks. Many cities saw temporary or permanent cycling lanes as a solution, but didn’t know how to implement them quickly, safely or equitably. Simultaneously, mounting health concerns and the urgent need for physical distancing has had adverse effects on public transportation. Cities needed new strategies to overcome the financial and operational challenges brought on by the pandemic-fueled drop in ridership.

WRI’s Role

WRI supported the rapid development of safe and accessible temporary and permanent cycle lanes, as well as the improvement of public transportation systems to help city officials develop cleaner, healthier, well-managed and customized transportation alternatives. Depending on the city’s needs, WRI offered: technical guidance on COVID-19 best practice; direction for on-the-ground implementation of mobility solutions; and webinars that provided general design and policy recommendations.

Many cities focused on providing safer spaces for cyclists and pedestrians. For example, WRI India helped the city of Bangalore design and implement a new temporary cycle lane in one of the densest and busiest parts of the city. In Zapopan, México, WRI Mexico conducted a data study on traffic crashes that influenced the city’s road and cycle lane redesign. When Buenos Aires experienced a pandemic-induced spike in cycling, WRI Brasil’s road design and traffic-management support helped city officials build protected cycle lanes on major roads

Other cities developed more sustainable public transport infrastructure. For example, before COVID-19, bus passengers in New Delhi were required to buy tickets directly from the bus conductor. Recognizing that this system put passengers and the crew at risk of virus transmission, WRI India convinced the Delhi Government to invest in a digital payment system.

The Outcome

WRI’s guidance helped bring safer, greener, accessible, affordable and more resilient mobility to cities during a year of unprecedented health and financial uncertainty. WRI’s interventions bring cleaner and safer transportation alternatives and better public transportation management to 30 cities across 10 countries and one region. These mobility solutions will benefit the lives of all city citizens, but especially the lives of people in lower-income communities where public transportation options are now limited due to COVID-19. Looking ahead, WRI strives to make these temporary improvements in cycling and public transportation systems permanent and to incorporate them into cities’ long-term strategic development plans, ensuring that these positive impacts last beyond the global pandemic.