It’s World Bicycle Day and the weather’s perfect for getting back to better!
Cycling is fun, healthy and a great way to escape the crowds. Cars, on the other hand, have a tendency to create congestion and pollute the air.
And that impact on our environment has been thrown into stark relief within just a few short months. The air is cleaner, there’s less traffic noise and – get this – ‘11,000 fewer deaths from air pollution in Europe alone’. The danger is that all those benefits will be lost as the lockdown eases, particularly if people take to their cars to avoid public transport.
It’s a danger that the UN says governments and transport sectors are obliged to act on in order to meet climate challenges.‘A return to the mass use of cars will not be sustainable,’ said The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe(UNECE) recently, ‘and will not allow governments to meet their sustainable development objectives and the Paris Agreement targets’.
‘The transport sector now has the possibility and the obligation to restart in a manner that is conducive to a more efficient, greener, healthier and more sustainable system,’ the Commission said.
‘In order to do so, a “new normal” needs to be developed to replace “business as usual”.’
But there’s a good chance it won’t. Writing on ING’s Think blog, behavioural scientist Jessica Exton warned that people changed their behaviour to adapt to new social rules and will as easily change them again if those rules revert.
‘New behaviours may need many repetitions if they are guaranteed to stick post-lockdown,’ she says; and though lockdown may feel like it’s been going on forever, in reality it may not have been long enough for new behaviours to stick.
But there is hope, says Jessica – if we are prepared to work on cementing our new, improved habits.
‘Behavioural changes made during lockdown are more likely to last if our environment continues to prompt and support them, or if our new behaviour becomes a habit,’ she says. ‘For those behaviours we are hoping to change long-term, it may be useful to recognise that they won’t automatically stick around. It will most likely take a little conscious effort to keep them around.’
So we should grasp the opportunity right now to promote those greener and healthier behaviours, such as walking and cycling, that we have adopted during lockdown.
The UN wants a ‘New Normal’. At BetterPoints, we talk about getting ‘back to better’.
World Bicycle Day is a great place to start, but it’s also summer and the weather’s been good. We’re not going to get a better chance than this.
Check out these UN articles for more information:
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