Greenpeace fears of ‘public transport collapse’ in cities due to coronavirus

In a study, the environmental protection organization Greenpeace warns of more individual traffic and advocates against excessive car use in city.

Currently, fewer people use the train as a means of transport. In the long term, however, there should be no switch to one’s own car, demands Greenpeace.

A short study by Greenpeace said that many people avoided public transport because of the fear of infection with the coronavirus. This could increase the number of kilometers traveled by car in the big cities by up to 20 billion a year. This means more traffic jams and more climate-damaging carbon dioxide (CO2). A “traffic attack” is impending and CO2 emissions could increase by an additional 3 million tons.

“To ensure that coronavirus does not also infect the traffic turnaround, cities must now create more space for cyclists and pedestrians,” said Greenpeace traffic expert Marion Tiemann. With better bike and footpaths, cities could prevent people from being forced back into their cars. This is a “huge opportunity” to make progress in switching to safe, clean and climate-friendly modes of transport.

Take space from the car

Even before the corona pandemic, the transport sector was the big problem child in many European countries’ government’s climate protection program. In contrast to other areas, CO2 emissions in the transport sector have hardly decreased in recent years due to a higher volume of traffic. That is why the debate could now pick up speed, taking space from the car in large cities, in favor of cyclists and pedestrians.

Even before the corona pandemic, roads in many German cities were congested, the short study says. Therefore, alternatives to the car would now have to be expanded. German cities should follow examples such as Berlin, Brussels, Milan or Paris and quickly take a seat from car traffic and convert them into more bike paths, pedestrian zones and play streets. “The bicycle traffic share in the ten largest German cities could be increased to 30 percent by 2030,” says the study. In order to achieve climate goals and improve the quality of life in cities, two out of three cars would have to be replaced with alternatives in the long term.

Promote climate-friendly means of transport

In the course of the Germany’s Federal Government’s planned economic stimulus package, the promotion of climate-friendly means of transport should also play a key role, demands Greenpeace. Instead of additional purchase bonuses, there should be a mobility bonus, for example to encourage the purchase of bicycles. Other environmental associations also advocate this. Just last week, government advisors – the Advisory Council on the Environment – had asked for a car toll and more expensive parking fees in cities to promote cycling and foot traffic and to advance climate protection.

The idea of ​​making space for motorized private transport is not new. For example, in August 2019 the Left Group in the Berlin House of Representatives came up with the proposal to introduce a fixed parking space reduction rate. So far, considerations in this direction have not been able to prevail across the board. In many places, public transport is obviously not an attractive alternative for commuters from the surrounding area, even outside of the corona pandemic.

About Greenpeace

Greenpeace was founded in 1971 in Vancouver, Canada – a nonprofit organization with environmental protection as its theme. It became known primarily through campaigns against nuclear weapons tests and campaigns against whaling. Later, the organization also focused on other issues such as overfishing, global warming, forest destruction, nuclear energy and genetic engineering. Greenpeace also points out alternatives through technical innovations.

Greenpeace demonstration in Toulouse in 2007 against the construction of an EPR (nuclear reactor) – (photo by Guillaume Paumier)

According to its own statements, Greenpeace had around three million supporting members worldwide in 2017 and employed around 2,400 people. Greenpeace Germany has around 590,000 supporting members. There are 28 regional Greenpeace offices in over 45 countries worldwide.

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