For a moment we thought that the corona pandemic was the solution to climate problems. Fewer car and aircraft movements and the air just became cleaner. But unfortunately, corona did change our daily lives and therefore also our mobility behaviour, but did not lead to major changes.
Although the virus put the brakes on trips to the office and on vacations by plane, it did not stimulate us to think differently about mobility. In addition, due to the risk of contamination, many people opted for individual transport instead of public transport. For example, there is still a lot of demand for second-hand cars.
The change was sometimes quite difficult in the beginning. But it also brought benefits. the daily traffic jams in the morning and evening rush hours disappeared like snow in the sun. The air contained fewer pollutants and we discovered nature again just like that. Destinations such as the Wadden Islands, the Veluwe, Limburg and Zeeland suddenly became the dream destination for our summer holidays instead of ‘nice for a weekend away’.
We now know that it is possible, such as video conferencing instead of extended business trips, home office instead of the daily drive to work and vacations at home or in your own country instead of a long flight. Unfortunately, many of those changes turn out to be temporary.
And how is it now?
What is the situation now, more than a year after the start of the pandemic? Has mobility behavior changed permanently as a result of the lock-down? Are people finally switching to more sustainable modes of transport such as walking, cycling and public transport, or are they more likely to return to their cherished old habits? Is the desired or feared revolution in transport already a reality?
In fact, nothing has changed at all. The Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research (ISI) in Karlsruhe discovered this with a new study. In Germany at least, but that will not be much different for the Netherlands and many other countries.
In connection with that study, the Fraunhofer Institute asked the Germans twice, in August 2020 and April 2021, how the distance of their business and private trips and the choice of their mode of transport would change under the rules of the corona restrictions. Fraunhofer ISI mainly focused on residents of large cities in the survey. This is because the switch to new means of transport is particularly easy there due to the many available alternatives. The effect on climate protection is also greatest there.
No trace of mobility revolution
Conclusion: There is hardly any sign of a major mobility revolution. In August 2020, the percentage of people who do not expect changes in their work-related mobility, i.e. commuting and business travel, was about 70 percent. This share has remained constant for 2021. And an opposite tendency is even observed for private travel. In 2020, many respondents wanted to be even less mobile, especially on vacation. Eight months later, that situation has completely turned around. It now appears that most respondents feel the need to catch up. They now even expect a strong increase in mobility.
dr. Johannes Schuler, who deals with mobility issues at Fraunhofer ISI in the Sustainability and Infrastructure Systems Competency Center, explains: “While there was still hope in many places shortly after the outbreak of the crisis that corona could fundamentally change mobility in Germany, our results indicate that these expectations may have been too optimistic. The respondents’ estimate of their planned future behavior after the pandemic is nevertheless optimistic. If already during the pandemic so many people indicate that they want to return to old patterns, that is not a good sign for the turnaround in mobility. More rigorous measures will be needed to change mobility in major cities.”
According to Schuler, people missed the opportunity for outings and long-distance travel during the pandemic. Partly for this reason, 38 percent of those surveyed say a year after the start of the pandemic that mobility simply makes them happy.