Recovery, Renewal, Resilience

Lessons for Resilience

Consider the impact of COVID-19 on commuter behaviour

Although home-based working has become the norm for a large percentage of the population, many workers have had to be physically present in their usual workplace. Many who have had to travel to workplaces during the pandemic have changed their mode of transport due to potential infection risks, delays and inconvenience due to cancelled or reduced public transport - i.e. they have changed their commute from public transport to private cars or bicycles. This has reduced their travel time, especially as traffic volumes are below pre-pandemic levels. Consider:

  • That traffic congestion and the demand for parking space could increase dramatically as restrictions ease and more people opt for private transport, which may lead to increases in:
    • Infrastructure maintenance costs on roads and motorways
    • Negative environmental impacts, e.g. pollution
    • Road traffic accidents and increased risk to cyclists and pedestrians, plus loss of public space, which may reduce the number of people who choose to cycle or walk
    • Costs and challenges for freight and delivery services
  • A travel awareness communication campaign, prior to an ease of restrictions:
    • Raise awareness of the benefits of sustainable travel for improving air quality and reducing pollution
    • Promote the health and well-being benefits of 'active transport' such as cycling
    • Communicate the stringent safety measures in place on public transport to increase confidence and encourage people to travel by bus/train
  • Draw on learning from previous crises to predict likely behaviours and inform policies that are fit for purpose, e.g. following the 2008 economic crisis, increased traffic increased congestion (Madrid, Spain)
  • Expand and improve cycling and walking space and infrastructure around workplaces
  • In cities, reduce speed limits to allow pedestrians and cyclists to be more confident and allow for social distancing
  • Promote and expand schemes such as 'Cycle2Work' by removing spending caps and allowing people to by bikes through the scheme that are appropriate and relevant for them (see TMB Issue 7):
    • Introduce a reimbursement scheme to reward cycling commuters, e.g. Netherlands offer 0.19 cent (euro) per kilometre cycled to work, or interest-free loans to purchase bikes
    • Trial an e-bike hire scheme in cities, e.g. Leicester (UK)
  • Review congestions charge policies and assess if they are appropriate for post-COVID activity
  • Introduce new policies, e.g. workplace parking levy, a charge on employers who provide workplace parking (Nottingham City Council, UK)
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Consider the focus of communication strategies to encourage behavioural changes
Strategic communications

Social distancing and restricted movements are important measures to control transmission of COVID-19. But the efficacy of this may be improved by increased focus on targeted information that focuses on behavioral change. Persistent spikes in COVID-19 cases has promoted debate about the effectiveness of restricted movement as a preventative measure in and of itself. Lessons from Malaysia suggest that increased attention should be paid to communication strategies that focus on:

  • Instilling new norms into people's daily lives through consistent and clear messaging from health officials
  • Specific risk behaviours, preventive behaviours, illness behaviours, and compliant behaviours associated with cultural values, perceptions, belief, and attitudes
  • Feedback from the public to improve and refine the communication process
  • Reinforcing desired behavioural changes through continued behavioural change interventions, namely, capacity building, policy implementation and enforcement, resource mobilization and participation of various players including government, nongovernmental organizations, civil society groups and the target population
  • Enhanced localized community messaging that is place specific
  • Provision of regular, transparent data to the public in easy to understand formats. Do not decrease the level of open, detailed government information
  • Targeted communications for specific hotspots such as some places of work (e.g. construction sites in Malaysia where infection spread quickly because of working conditions), and through providing guidance to associations, clubs and schools
  • WHO 'Guidelines for Developing Behavioural Change Interventions in the Context of Avian Influenza' has some useful information on developing Behavioural Change Interventions here.
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Consider a twin-track strategy of containment and shielding
Vulnerable people

This can help to prevent deaths and stop the number of cases accelerating as suppression measures are eased. The benefits of these measures are:

  1. Containment measures allow us to reduce suppression measures without the spread of the virus accelerating
  2. Shielding the vulnerable allows us to reduce the death toll of the virus even if the spread of the virus does accelerate. Older people and people with relevant health conditions would be protected

European countries are starting to ease, but containment and shielding capacity appears limited, risking acceleration of the virus. East Asia has advanced containment capacity and anticipate better testing and tracing capacity and widespread use of masks.

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