“”As coronavirus lockdowns crept across the globe this winter and spring, an unusual sound fell over the world’s metropolises: the hush of streets that were suddenly, blessedly free of cars. City dwellers reported hearing bird song, wind and the rustling of leaves. (Along with, in New York City, the intermittent screams of sirens.)
You could smell the absence of cars, too. From New York to Los Angeles to New Delhi, air pollution plummeted, and the soupy, exhaust-choked haze over the world’s dirtiest cities lifted to reveal brilliant blue skies.
Cars took a break from killing people, too. About 10 pedestrians die on New York City’s streets in an ordinary month. Under lockdown, the city went a record two months without a single pedestrian fatality. In California, vehicle collisions plummeted 50 percent, reducing accidents resulting in injuries or death by about 6,000 per month.
But there is a catch: Cities are beginning to cautiously open back up again, and people are wondering how they’re going to get in to work. Many are worried about the spread of the virus on public transit. Are cars our only option? How will we find space for all of them?
In much of Manhattan, the average speed of traffic before the pandemic had fallen to 7 miles per hour. In Midtown, it was less than 5 m.p.h. That’s only slightly faster than walking and slower than riding a bike. Will traffic soon be worse than ever?
Not if we choose another path.