Are you on lockdown? Or trying your best to get to work safely? For those who still need to travel those essential journeys, using public transport during the coronavirus outbreak is a concern. So what is the safest way to get around responsibly? To reduce the spread of infection, we can change our travel habits and practice "social distancing" and do all we can do reduce human contact points. We have discovered what the effects and advice were for travel in Wuhan China and some other countries, and perhaps the insight will be useful for you and your family.
Note: Swifty is not an authority in medical matters! However, we hope this blog helps people to be informed about safe travel, the environment and personal health during a COVID-19 lockdown.
Public Transport During Coronavirus – What is the Safest Way to Travel?
Travelling to and from work is generally speaking when we will be most susceptible to spreading COVID-19 to one another. Around 50% of people in the EU’s larger cities commute using public transport [Citylab 2017] so we’re in close proximity with an array of people we don’t know for a considerable amount of time daily. High concentration of people in small (and generally speaking poorly ventilated) areas isn’t going to be doing us any favours. Maybe it’s time to consider a new mode of transport?
A doctor in China has broken down virus infection risks of public travel from high to low [weixin.qq] and has had his proposed hierarchy echoed by Zhang Liubo, Chief Expert of Disinfection Science, China CDC [xinhuanet.com] . They have also advised the below guidelines.
As you can see, if the journey is too far to walk, shared bicycles and scooters are the safest option, but even better, use your own bike or scooter! The guidelines that come with using shared transport options are – don’t ride in crowded spaces, sanitise handles and seat and wear a mask and gloves (these are current Chinese guidelines).
The benefits of using shared bikes or scooters are because you’re much more in control of your journey in comparison to other modes of travel. With bikes, kick-scooters and electric scooters, you can adjust your route according to how busy areas are, meaning you don’t have to make contact with anyone else on your journey, helping keep both yourself and those around you away from any potential risks. You’re also travelling in the open air so aren’t breathing in any re-circulated air or likely to be in close proximity with anyone who is coughing.
General guidelines for Bus and Underground travel, for example, say to keep 1-2m away from other passengers and choose modes with good ventilation. This is something we are not always going to have control over. Recent research [South China Morning Post] also suggests that the virus can ‘linger in the air for at least 30 minutes and travel up to 4.5 metres’. If it comes to needing to give 5m distance between passengers, then it’s not going to be viable to travel these ways. Current guidelines in Italy are to remain 1m away from each other in public spaces. [March 2020]
Some locations are putting precautions in place on certain modes of transport, for example in Israel passengers won’t be allowed to stand on buses in order to avoid overcrowding, no one is able to sit near the drivers and passengers can only enter through the back doors in order to keep them as safe as possible. With information changing so quickly though we need to start looking for alternatives so we have options stay mobile if the guidelines change.
The growth of longer-distance bike journeys during public transport lockdown
The benefits of micromobility travel options are clearly being embraced by the public in affected areas as 'Hellobike, one of China’s biggest bike-share providers said trips longer than 3 kilometres (1.86 miles) tripled between January 22 and January 24, when Wuhan first shut down public transportation’ [Abacus News] .
It’s helping contribute as a whole to a recovery in China’s bike rental sector, which was previously seeing a steep decline in popularity. The surge also seems to be a direct response to Covid-19 as the winter is ‘usually a low season for the bike rental industry which is highly influenced by weather’ [Tech Node]
What is not mentioned in the transport rankings list is the option of personal transport, scooters and bikes. Many of the hygiene concerns raised by using shared micromobility options are not as much of a worry when it comes to your own bike or scooter. Using your own means, you’ll know exactly who has been using your scooter, you can be in control of its hygiene. Ultimately a bike or scooter will lower your overall contact points throughout the day and with a scooter like the SwiftyONE you are able to fold it up and keep it with you through the working day.
In the midst of Coronavirus, this information is particularly important to take on board when making your own travel decisions. However, it’s also worth considering for any time in the year that is common for the cold and flu to be passed around. A study found that ‘people using public transport during flu outbreaks were up to six times more likely to pick up an acute respiratory infection’. Hopefully, this increasing public awareness of how to keep ourselves and others safe amidst an outbreak can help us form safer and better habits moving forward.
Build healthy and positive habits now
One way we can help ourselves is to make sure our immune system is as strong as possible. One of the best ways to do this is by exercising – ‘To be immunologically fit, you need to be physically fit’. Prof. Arne Akbar, president of the British Society for Immunology supports this saying White blood cells can be quite sedentary,” says Akbar. “Exercise mobilises them by increasing your blood flow, so they can do their surveillance jobs and seek and destroy in other parts of the body.”
Go for a walk, a run, a bike ride, or, you guessed it, a scoot! The variable fitness offered by a push scooter is an option for people of all abilities and all ages; there are people riding Swiftys who are in their 80’s! Now is as good a time as any to embrace scooting as a means of getting active to help boost your immune system.
Kick scooting brings plenty of health benefits that are discussed extensively in our blog. To get in the habit of travelling by scooter sooner rather than later we can be much more prepared to go about our days normally should there be any changes that affect public transport options in the future. In the case of the Hubei province where a vehicle ban was put in place to curb the spread of the virus, it might become one of the only ways for you to get around if your travel is necessary!
The current situation in places that are on ‘lockdown’ or facing travel restrictions as a result of the outbreak will likely make a lot of people look towards micromobility transport options and see the range of benefits they can bring in a new light. Cities like London and New York which are not yet under quarantine are already seeing this effect. If people living in cities can start to adopt a broader range of travel as standard that means we’re less reliant on single transport options. As a result, we can not only begin to develop a healthier commute for everyone but also help reduce health risks brought on by the likes of Coronavirus, and more commonly the typical seasonal cold and flu.
The environmental impact of lockdown – what is actually happening to our air quality?
While the momentum of the Climate Strike movement has been diverted in the media, the effects of the lockdown on air quality can already be seen. We found this incredible Nasa Earth Observatory image of Nitrogen Dioxide levels over China. The sudden drop in emissions, the drop in production and energy usage (in particular coal-fired power) allowed the air quality to return to the province.
Perhaps living in lockdown can allow us time to take a step back and re-evaluate the amount of unnecessary consumption that we've become used to and the unnecessary travel that we do.
Trend Forecaster Li Edelkoort has also discussed in a recent interview how this pandemic can ultimately help us re-evaluate and adjust the way we work going forward - ‘The recent pictures of the air above China showed how two months without production cleared the skies and allowed people to breathe again. This means that the virus will show how slowing production can produce a better environment which will surely be visible on a large scale. If we look at holiday travel, business travel and transport, the clean-up should be considerable.’
Travelling in Public Responsibly – everyone doing their bit
Dealing with the outbreak of COVID-19 is something that falls on all our shoulders. Until governments issue a complete travel ban, it's understandable that people won’t be able to veto certain types of public transport fully, so a lot of it comes down to being aware. Most countries are trying to help cut down the spread of the virus rather than deal with quarantine so the time is now to be vigilant.
The basic steps are fairly clear when it comes to different transport types, guidelines such as often washing your hands, not eating on public transport and wearing gloves if you’re going to touch surfaces are things every individual is in control of. On busier types of transport like trams/undergrounds, there are certain elements that are going to be outside of your control, we can each take it on ourselves to try and find alternative ways to get around.
As Bharat Pankhania, an expert in disease control at the University of Exeter says – " [One way to reduce the risk of spreading] is to be knowledgeable about how the infection is spread and how they can protect themselves. For example, by maintaining their own personal protective zones whilst travelling,". Turning to adult scooters and personal modes of transport is a great example of how we can be responsible for our ‘own protective zone’ for the benefit of both ourselves and those around us. The basic guidelines as a whole are a lot easier for yourself to control and there will be significantly less risk of interference from other people when you’re on a scooter or a bike.
Information and guidelines are changing on a daily basis and we all need to stay vigilant to updates as they come. What is clear however is that embracing shared or personal scooters and bikes is a very workable way of staying connected and mobile while keeping yourself and those around you safe. And until a quarantine is imposed, get into nature! We love this photo from @vegankickbiker and her SwiftyAIR scooter!