A new report published today, Less is More: Changing travel in a post-pandemic society, finds that people have been able to adapt significant elements of their daily travel to do what they want by travelling less.
A new report published today, Less is more: Changing travel in a post-pandemic society, finds that people have been able to adapt significant elements of their daily travel to do what they want by travelling less. Researchers from CREDS and Decarbon8 looked at the changes in work location and travel as a result of Covid-19 to learn lessons that would help to reach the UK’s net-zero goals.
On the cusp of the two-year anniversary of the first Covid-19 lockdown, this report looks at how, why and how much we have travelled over the past two years. It sheds light on the ways in which many people were able to reorganise everyday life to travel less and asks how we can lock-in certain behaviours to support our net-zero ambitions.
Drawing on national datasets and insights from a ground-breaking survey in 10 areas of the UK, it shows that car traffic has reduced overall: congestion is not back to pre-pandemic levels and weekday car traffic is 10% lower than pre-pandemic levels, in large part due to homeworking. It also finds that car ownership has fallen. 14% of the households with two cars before the pandemic reduced to one car. Car sales are down on pre-pandemic levels and the anticipated dash to driving to reduce exposure to Covid-19 has not happened. The only mode of travel to see a sustained increase is walking. More people are walking more often than before the pandemic and not just for leisure. Walking is at the heart of the concept of 15 or 20 minute neighbourhoods and, the researchers argue, this means we should be spending more on improving our local areas for walking and wheeling.
The researchers from CREDS and the DecarboN8 network go on to develop recommendations for transport decisions makers based on evidence from these changing travel patterns that would encourage fewer trips, a greater blend of virtual activities and more localised and active travel. The researchers call on policy makers to:
- Actively manage the return to the office to kickstart more sustainable commuting
- Stimulate a return to public transport
- Prioritise improving pedestrian environments with the funding and attention it deserves
- Encourage leisure cyclists to broaden their cycle use
- Tackle the rise in light goods vehicle traffic
- Support a shift to lower car ownership
Dr Greg Marsden of CREDS and the DecarboN8 network, said:
Some of our findings upend the thinking about transport policy. Society’s capacity to innovate suggests we can use the learning from the pandemic to plan for less traffic. We need to do that anyway to meet our climate goals. In the light of the war in Ukraine and increased fuel prices and energy security concerns we need to double our efforts on enabling better access to the things people need without requiring more travel to get them.
Banner photo credit: Jonny Gios on Unsplash