An illustration of a bus


The lockdown measures brought major changes to how and where we travel, and in particular, disruptions to public transport services.


Airlines suspended flights and planes were grounded worldwide. Thousands of holidays were cancelled and tourists stranded abroad were flown home on government-chartered flights.


Transport services were limited, leading to the initial overcrowding of train, bus, and underground stations and carriages. The government later advised people to avoid public transport in order to limit the risk of viral infection. However, not everyone could do so: many key workers and people who could not work from home still had to rely on public transport each day to get to and from work. These changes in mobility were captured by Google in their COVID-19 mobility reports, which are available for countries and cities globally.

In London, the deaths of public transport workers due to COVID-19 raised questions about the lack of personal protective equipment and cleaning.


Passengers were prevented from boarding at the front of buses, while protective screens were also installed around drivers. Wearing face masks on public transport was later made mandatory but mask exemptions for people with disabilities were not made clear.   


The good news is that when restrictions on movement were introduced, active travel increased. There was a notable rise in walking and cycling for leisure as people explored their local areas. Bike sales boomed and at one point, anyone wishing to purchase a new bike had to join a waiting list. Some cities closed streets to traffic, opening them up to pedestrians and cyclists, while others created a network of temporary bike lanes.

There has been much discussion about how we can make the necessary infrastructure changes to make walking and cycling safer and a more desirable means of getting around, post-COVID-19. There certainly seems to be public appetite, with almost two thirds of respondents to a Summer 2020 Transport Scotland survey stating that they will walk or cycle more once restrictions on travel are lifted.

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