Each time I have messaged one of my friends or family members during the past few weeks, I’ve started using inverted commas around the word ‘normal’. See, I automatically did it again.

As much as everybody would like to go back to ‘normal’ as soon as possible, I think going back to the ‘normal’ we know, that we are used to and lived in will be impossible.

Let me tell you why I think that. 

Have you ever had an unexplainable feeling after experiencing something in your own life that only happened to you? You feel different going back to your ‘normal’ life, a life that felt so natural to you not that long ago. It feels like your environment hasn’t changed around you, but you yourself have indeed changed.

I feel like COVID19 is just like that, with the significant difference being that it has affected everybody’s life in one way or another instead of just your own. Therefore, I hope once we can all start easing back into our everyday lives many of us will feel the same way about the need to change the lifestyles we lived and the way we did business just a few months ago. This will hopefully have a major effect on how we do transport planning in the future.

We are all aware that we can reduce some of our impacts on the climate simply by reducing the number of vehicles on the roads and the number of planes in the air, in short by changing our travel behaviours. However, Mother Earth has now proved to us just how drastically and quickly we can clean up the mess that we have created over the decades, and how important it is to be able to do simple, ‘run-of-the-mill’ things such as walking or cycling to improve our health and stay sane during this lockdown.

I think transport planners were key to creating a more sustainable world even before this pandemic started, so now we will be needed even more to help the world recover after the virus.

I do believe that this will be an important chapter in transport planners’ lives, and we need to make sure that this time we plan it right and steer the ship in the right direction.

Changing our travel behaviour is difficult as old habits die hard, so I think it’s unrealistic to think we will be stepping into a completely new world and I am sure that many things will just fall back to how they were a few months ago. However, the question is will history repeat itself again as it did so many times before or will we learn from this situation and realise that we now have the opportunity to actually create a better world for ourselves? I’m confident that changes will happen, and that people will want changes even more which will help to achieve the behavioural change that felt almost impossible not that long ago.

Whilst only time will tell if we will manage to create a better world or not, I always say the coin has two sides. We can look at this situation as a temporary pause before we carry on business as usual, or we can also look at it as being an opportunity to really make changes in the way we live, work and travel and maybe even save our planet.

The question is, as Transport Planners how will we help to create a better world? Because “If we do not change our direction now, most likely we will end up where we are headed.” – Chinese Proverb




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