A list of the negative impacts brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic is long. However, one shining light has emerged, with the public gaining a renewed focus of our carbon footprint and the effects our daily lives have on the planet.
Milan, which was once the global hotspot for COVID-19, has launched an ambitious plan to transform its street space to promote cycling and walking.
The city is one of Europe’s most polluted, but a nationwide lockdown has seen traffic dramatically drop and as a result air pollution.
It’s unclear what sort of effect the Maltese government’s drastic but necessary measures have had, but with far fewer cars on the road, people have already begun noticing fresher air.
In Milan, around 35km will be covered into cycling and pedestrian use through the introduction of new low-cost temporary cycle lanes, widened pavements, 30 km/h speed limits, and pedestrian and cyclist priority streets.
“We think we have to reimagine Milan in the new situation. We have to get ready; that’s why it’s so important to defend even a part of the economy, to support bars, artisans and restaurants,” Milan Deputy Mayor Marco Granelli explained.
“When it is over, the cities that still have this kind of economy will have an advantage, and Milan wants to be in that category,”
Milan is not too dissimilar from Malta. Stretching around 15km, it is only slightly smaller than Malta but has three times the number of inhabitants. Average commutes are also similar, and with Maltese towns bleeding into one another, it’s fair to say the nation could be considered a city-state.
Malta’s traffic problems are well known and continue to remain unaddressed despite endeavours to improve the country’s road infrastructure. There were close to 40 new cars on Malta’s roads every day before the COVID-19 pandemic. Widening roads is the equivalent of an obese person getting a larger belt.
With a fully-fledged mass transportation a distant paradise, maybe Malta started looking elsewhere to radically change our road network.