Dan Rushton

City Pedestrianization & Micromobility Post COVID-19

Cities around the world are already becoming smarter using Location Intelligence for a wide range of use cases from urban planning and micromobility analysis, to ensuring citizens are able to gain access to insights using open data. As residents in these cities emerge back onto the streets following long periods of lockdown and isolation, public authorities are announcing plans to transform central parts of their urban areas to enable safe social distancing. In this post we consider some of the proposals and initiatives being implemented and how Spatial Data Science can help determine where to focus efforts and resources.

A photograph showing pedestrians walking down a closed road


More space for pedestrians

Cities have been making efforts over the years to become more pedestrian friendly with a lot of these plans accelerating as a consequence of the pandemic. Roads have been closed and pedestrian areas expanded to ensure more space is available to adhere by social distancing guidelines. New pedestrian walkways may also provide a boost for those struggling in the restaurant industry allowing them more outdoor terrace space in the coming Summer months. With commentary such as ‘taking back the streets’ it remains to be seen whether these measures will be temporary but David Legg, professor of health and physical education at Mount Royal University has commented that they could ‘create an entire renaissance of community belonging’.

Perhaps this is a further demonstration that we do need to perhaps look at urban design being more active transportation-friendly. Maybe this creates an entire renaissance of community belonging. I think it's up to our politicians and policy developers and even urban planners to think about the greater good.

Human mobility data has been used extensively during the pandemic to aid in emergency response and recovery planning and can be leveraged by cities and government to identify the areas in which higher numbers of pedestrians are accumulating and to generate origin destination matrices to understand journey patterns. The example below uses CARTOframes and Google BigQuery to visualize human mobility data in London.


Other types of data that can give us insights into where pedestrian zones should be prioritized include the frequency of where accidents occur between vehicles and pedestrians. The heatmap analysis below shows the occurrence of such accidents in Barcelona over the period of one year.

Increasing bike use

Another common scene in cities that have introduced scheduled exercise time for residents is the large number of people donning lycra and using their bikes on the streets and cycle lanes. Prior to the pandemic one of our customers, Wecity, wrote a piece on their ‘ad-hoc approach’ to visualizing cycling in urban areas.

Wecity are using Location Intelligence to drive sustainable mobility strategies by rewarding citizens using greener transport methods such as cycling. As a technology partner in a project with the City of Cesena Council they wanted to visualize cycle route data on shareable online maps. By combining raw data from the routes, the original road graph, and certain “cycling” corrections to take into account the peculiarity of these movements they were able to produce the visualization below.

By taking advantage of integrations with Kepler the team was also able to create an animated visualization which is able to convey the spatial and temporal distribution of travel, the peak times, and the departure and arrival areas amongst other things.

Want to learn more about how Wecity collects, visualizes and analyzes this type of data?

Click to read the full customer story

As with pedestrian zones another method for evaluating where to build more infrastructure for bike users is to determine areas with an increased number of accidents with other road vehicles. The visualization below takes advantage of our Alteryx connector to source the data and displays details of the severity, location, time and date of the accident.

Boosting micromobility

One of the few ‘benefits’ of the pandemic has been a decline in air pollution including in many urban areas which is leading some authorities to speed up the adoption of alternative greener forms of transport within their cities. As an example the UK government announced recently that trials for allowing scooters on public roads would be brought forward to June this year as opposed to 2021.

The micromobility industry which includes greener alternatives such as bikes, scooters, and electric cars, revolves around location, with the amount of available location data growing exponentially. Companies such as Bird, Jump and Lime (which have now merged) are digital-first companies, and have architected their applications to use location data for the benefit of the user - gathering spatial data points to ensure scooters or bikes are in the right location at the right time for them.

As an example, this animated map below was created by a micromobility company operating in Barcelona. They wanted to analyze starting and stopping points of their vehicles in order to be able to create a downtime metric which would help them redistribute the fleet around the city for maximum usage.

Want to learn more about how Spatial Analysis can benefit Micromobility?

Click to watch the full webinar

Optimizing public transportation

With social distancing guidelines being enforced on public transportation systems and networks at risk of overcrowding due to lower than normal service levels, it is more important than ever that the performance of existing routes be optimized to ensure the continued movement of citizens. The example below, using EMT data, measures the performance of bus routes in Madrid by visualizing the time deviation on certain routes across the city.

Conclusion

As cities adapt to the new normal post pandemic it’s clear that Spatial Data Science and Location Data will play a key role in ensuring citizen safety and the ability to travel within our urban areas for work and leisure.

For several months we have focused on the doom and gloom that comes with the COVID-19 pandemic, but one of the benefits that we hope to see as part of the new normal is the opportunity to re-engage with communities within our cities and ensure that greener and more sustainable transport options continue to thrive and grow - allowing us to see less traffic, less pollution and less vehicle and pedestrian accidents.

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About the author
Dan Rushton

Dan is the Content Marketing Manager at CARTO. Dan holds a Masters in Electronic Engineering with business experience in development, sales, training and marketing. Prior to joining CARTO, Dan was a Senior Product Marketing Manager at Apple.

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