The COVID-19 pandemic has created an immense social, economic, and political disruption around the world. The Practitioner Briefing developed within the framework of the CIVITAS SATELLITE CSA offers an in-depth strategic plan on how to re-open transport sector in European Cities. However, demographic data quoted in the briefing ignores the importance of intersectional approach. Women, elderly or people with disabilities are not homogenous groups with just fewer opportunities and poorer access to the services. Such groups are not explored in guidelines, bundled up as a ‘category’ being overrepresented in a survey about cycling as a way of transportation.
The brief seemed to miss the fact that many essential workers and physical workers never stopped working during lockdown, with little changes to their travel patterns. More detailed demographic data on the survey respondents could provide a better image how different groups are being affected. Meanwhile, schedule for supermarket workers, cleaners, warehouse workers or construction workers remained the same. In fact, they had to suffer consequences of limited public transport options available with less frequent services, risking being exposed to contamination and its effects. Inability to maintain social distancing, small spaces with high congestion and poorly ventilated areas are the main reason why trains, airplanes and buses were ranked as high-risk exposure to the virus. While it is known that the virus can contaminate surfaces in enclosed areas like on public transport, it’s not certain exactly how often that actually translates to a new infection. However, there is data collected by Public Health England showing that people regularly using London underground are at the higher risk of infectious diseases transmission. Consequently, bus drivers – who have been among workers having frequent and close interaction with many people over the course of a shift – are running higher risk of infections. Recent data shows that male bus and coach drivers were found to have a rate of 26.4 deaths per 100,000 compared to sales and retail assistants at a rate of 19.8. Similarly, women from lower socio–economic groups are the largest public transport users as they have less access to private vehicles.
Most workers handling face to face contact were women. All things considered, in diverse, multicultural communities it became clear that due to deeply rooted power relations and oppression, women and some ethnicities are paying a much higher price for remaining in the workforce because they are not able to work from home. The Practitioner Briefings offers recommendation on how to switch from unsafe public transport to more socially distanced means like cycling or walking. However, these are options only for relatively short distances and, not suitable for physical workers who are already working long hours. It is essential that cities around Europe recognise how the pandemic’s impact affects communities differently, as inequalities intersect with gender and racial discrimination. Whilst mortality has been higher amongst men, early indications show the economic fallout is having a greater impact for women. As COVID research and guidelines for new mobility patterns increase, TInnGO is actively engaged in understanding how mobility patterns have been modified in the pandemic, how it affects people and diversity measures in place or in the making, as diversity and inclusivity are now necessary more than ever.