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ATO on regional passenger trains trial to go ahead in 2021

Rail Express 28 May 2020

A world-first test of automatic train operation (ATO) on a regional train line has received a prestigious award from the German government.

The German Federal Ministry of Economics awarded Alstom with the Innovation Prize for Regulatory Sandboxes for its planned trial of ATO in daily operation of regional passenger trains in Braunschweig.

The test is planned for 2021 and will be conducted by Alstom in partnership with the Regional Association of the greater area of Braunschweig, the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and the Technical University of Berlin (TU Berlin).

Jörg Nikutta, managing director of Alstom in Germany and Austria, said the prize recognised Alstom’s focus on innovation.

“In the future, automated trains will optimize regional rail operations, reduce energy consumption, and increase ride comfort. In this way, highly automated driving will make a decisive contribution to climate protection and contribute to the development of a modern, attractive railway system. Following the development and successful testing of the world’s first hydrogen train Coradia iLint, Alstom is once again the innovative driver in rail transport with the pilot for regional trains in automated operation,” he said.

The trial will be conducted with two Coradia Continental regional trains, owned by the regional rail operator for greater Braunschweig. The trains will be equipped with an European Train Control System (ETCS) and ATO equipment to enable the trains to travel automatically.

The trial will involve two different grades of automation (GoA). In regular passenger operation the trains will operate at GoA3, meaning the trains will be fully autonomous but with an attendant who can step in if there is an emergency. In shunting the trains will be operated fully remotely, at GoA4.

Birgit Milius, head of the Department of Railway Operations and Infrastructure at TU Berlin said that the trail would be an indication of how rail will operate in the future.

“ATO, or Automatic Train Operation, is one of the most exciting challenges in the railway industry. It gives us the opportunity to shape and significantly change the operational management of the future. But a lot of research is still needed before this is the case, and I am very pleased to be working with Alstom on this project,” she said.

Findings from the tests will inform the legal and regulatory framework for ATO. Alstom will use its expertise in ATO for metro trains and research into autonomous freight trains to guide the project.

World’s first two hydrogen trains successfully complete trial passenger service

Global Railway Review 19 May 2020

World’s first two hydrogen trains successfully complete trial passenger service

Two pre-series Alstom Coradia iLint model trains have successfully completed trial passenger services, after 530 days and more than 180,000 driven kilometres.

From 2022, 14 Coradia iLint series trains will replace the existing diesel multiple units. LNVG was the first company to believe in hydrogen, investing in it with the order of 14 Coradia iLint trains and thirty years of maintenance and power supply. This project showcases the importance of green mobility for the state of Lower Saxony. As one of the leading rail vehicle manufacturers in Europe, Alstom will produce the fuel cell trains for LNVG and will be responsible for the maintenance of the vehicles at its site in Salzgitter. The gases and engineering company Linde will build and operate a hydrogen filling station for the series trains near Bremervoerde station.

Jörg Nikutta, Managing Director for Germany and Austria of Alstom Transport Deutschland GmbH, said: “Our two pre-series trains of the Coradia iLint have proven over the past year and a half that fuel cell technology can be used successfully in daily passenger service. This makes us an important driving force on the way to emission-free and sustainable mobility in rail transport . We have also obtained valuable data from the trial operation of the fuel cell trains for the further development of the propulsion technology.”  

Andreas Wagner, Head of the SPNV division and authorised signatory of the Eisenbahnen und Verkehrsbetriebe Elbe-Weser GmbH (evb), said: “We are proud that we were the first railway company in the world to be allowed to operate the first two fuel cell trains on the Weser-Elbe network. From the very beginning, our passengers were very curious about the trains and their new propulsion technology. Besides its very low noise level, the hydrogen train was able to score with its emission-free operation, especially in times of climate change. The operation of the iLint was a very special motivation for our train drivers.”

Carmen Schwabl, Managing Director of LNVG, added: “With the successfully completed trial operation, the requirements for continuous operation of the hydrogen trains from 2022 are fulfilled. LNVG thus contributes to the implementation of sustainable, innovative and ecological mobility solutions, especially in rural areas.”

Lower Saxony’s Minister of Economics and Transport, Dr. Bernd Althusmann, said: “Alstom has made hydrogen history here. The project is of a great importance to industrial policy that goes far beyond Germany. Here, we are witnessing the first competitive product of hydrogen mobility at industrial level.”

Enak Ferlemann, Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure, said: “The Federal Ministry of Transport is very happy to support the beacon of modern mobility: the hydrogen train in Bremervörde. After all, this project is a flagship for the mobility of the future. Hydrogen is a real low-emission and efficient alternative to diesel. Especially on secondary lines where overhead lines are uneconomical or not yet available, these trains can travel cleanly and in an environmentally friendly way. We would like to see more such applications.”

Coradia iLint

Coradia iLint is the first passenger train in the world to be powered by a hydrogen fuel cell, which generates electrical energy for propulsion. This completely emission-free train is quiet and emits only water vapor and condensation water. The train features several different innovations: clean energy conversion, flexible energy storage in batteries and intelligent management of motive power and available energy. Designed specifically for use on non-electrified lines, it enables clean, sustainable train operations.

Uber lays off another 3,000 employees

TechCrunch 18 May 2020

Uber is laying off another 3,000 employees, the Wall Street Journal first reported. Uber is also closing 45 offices, and rethinking its approach in areas like freight and autonomous vehicle technology.

“I knew that I had to make a hard decision, not because we are a public company, or to protect or stock price, or to please our Board or investors,” Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi wrote to employees today in a memo, viewed by TechCrunch . “I had to make this decision because our very future as an essential service for the cities of the world — our being there for millions of people and businesses who rely on us — demands it. We must establish ourselves as a self-sustaining enterprise that no longer relies on new capital or investors to keep growing, expanding, and innovating.”

As part of the layoffs, Uber is expected to pay up to $145 million to employees via severance and other benefits, and up to $80 million in order to shut down offices, according to a filing with the SEC.

This comes just weeks after Uber laid off 3,700 employees in order to save about $1 billion in costs. Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Uber has laid off about 25% of its workforce.

Rides have been hit hard amid the coronavirus. More specifically, rides are down about 80%, according to the company. Food delivery, however, has been hot. In Q1, Uber Eats experienced major growth with gross bookings of $4.68 billion, up 52% from that same quarter one year ago.
“I will caution that while Eats growth is accelerating, the business today doesn’t come close to covering our expenses,” Khosrowshahi wrote in the memo today. “I have every belief that the moves we are making will get Eats to profitability, just as we did with Rides, but it’s not going to happen overnight.”

Meanwhile, Uber is in talks to buy GrubHub to beef up its food delivery business, UberEats, according to The WSJ and Bloomberg. Uber first approached Grubhhub earlier this year with an offer, but the two companies are still in talks, according to the WSJ. A Bloomberg report says the deal could be finalized sometime this month. Khosrowshahi. however, did not mention this deal in the memo today.

In an attempt to organize more around its core offering, Uber is shutting down Incubator after less than one year of launch. It’s also shutting down AI Labs and looking into alternatives for Uber Works, a service Uber launched in October to match workers with shifts.

Those not affected in these layoffs are drivers, which are not currently classified as employees but rather independent contractors. Still, many drivers have continued to be vocal amid the coronavirus pandemic, demanding better protections and benefits. Last week, rideshare drivers staged a caravan protest to demand Uber comply with AB 5 pay into the state’s unemployment insurance fund and drop the ballot initiative it proposed along with Lyft and DoorDash that aims to keep gig workers classified as independent contractors.

VW received 20,000 e-up! electric car orders, rivaling gas-powered version

Elektrek 31 March 2020

Volkswagen claims to have received 20,000 e-up! electric car orders in Germany over the past 3 months – rivaling the demand for its gas-powered version.

Today, the German automaker shared a press release to boast about the demand for the e-up! electric car and the Passat GTE PHEV in Germany.

The latter is not very impressive since we are talking about every seventh Passat customer in Germany opting for the PHEV version.

However, when it comes to the former, the little e-up! (yes, there’s an exclamation point in the name), VW had some impressive data to share.

The e-up! is the electric version of the up! model series and now VW says that every other customer buying an up! model series vehicle in Germany is ordering the electric one.

The automaker claims to have received over 20,000 orders for the e-up! electric car in Germany this year:

“Even before the launch of the new ID.304 this summer, the demand for electric mobility has considerably increased in Germany: already every second order for the up! model series is for the fully electric version, around 20,000 orders have been received. […] Around 20,000 vehicles have been ordered already over the first three months of this year.”

The increased demand comes after VW updated the e-up! for the 2020 model year last year with a much longer range:

“The e-up! generates 61 kW (83 PS) has been launched in November 2019 and represents the new entry-level model to Volkswagen’s electric world. Compared with the predecessor, it offers a significantly increased range (up to 260 km in the WLTP cycle).”

VW attributes the increase in demand in Germany partly to the low cost of the vehicle after incentives in the market:

“The low running costs are the crucial purchasing argument: In Germany, its manufacturer suggested retail price (€21,975) is reduced by an environmental bonus (€6,570, both gross amounts) and the German insurance categories are favourable (liability category: 12, fully comprehensive category: 16). And no charges are incurred for road tax or engine oil changes for the e-up!.”

As we reported last week, the e-up! might not have long to live despite its success since VW says it’s working on entry-level ID.1 electric car that would replace the e-up!.

Electrek’s Take

This is really good news for VW. It’s going to help them reach their emission goals in Europe until the ID.3 is available.

They are just talking about Germany here, but the economics of the new e-up! are likely good in several other European markets.

I would note though that VW is only talking about orders and not deliveries. I doubt that they have the production capacity to deliver on the demand for the e-up! since they have only been planning for real EV volume production with the MEB platform.

Nonetheless, I’m curious to see how many of the new e-up! VW ends up selling this year.

Lithium Supply Fears Loom Over Electric Vehicle Happy Talk — Or Not, As The Case May Be

Cleantechnica 27 May 2020

Spring has sprung, which means it’s time for another round of guess how much lithium automakers will need to make enough lithium-ion batteries for the electric vehicle of the future, of which there are expected to be many millions on the road within the next ten years or so. Spoiler alert: we’re going to need a lot more lithium mines than we have right now. Or, maybe not.

The Clock Is Ticking On The Electric Vehicle Supply Chain of the Future

The big question is, should auto makers start investing in lithium mines to guarantee their future supply?

Lithium miners certainly seem to think so, because new lithium investors are becoming harder to find  these days. Investors are skittish in part because there is currently an oversupply of lithium and prices have dropped considerably from two years ago.

One example is Finland’s Keliber, which has laid claim to the first lithium mine in the EU. Now it is also claiming to be the first ever mining company to solicit investment from the auto industry.
Alternatively, Keliber is looking to nail down long term supply contracts with automakers.

As for the supply of lithium itself, miners have barely scratched the surface of the global lithium potential. The challenge is to match the mining timeline with the electric vehicle manufacturing timeline. It can take years to start up a new mining operation, and meantime automakers are already gearing up for an electric vehicle recovery after the COVID-19 downturn.

Consolidation in the mining industry and environmental damage are two other areas that will challenge automakers — and other lithium investors — in future years.

All Lithium Roads Lead to More Electric Vehicles

For a deeper dive into the investor angle, check out a new YouTube interview from our friends over at EV Stock Channel.

In the meantime, technology could become the final arbiter of how much lithium mining is needed, and how quickly, for the all-electric personal mobility market of 10 or 20 years from now.

One alternative supply source is evaporated salt brine. A movement is already afoot in that area to replace inefficient (and environmentally damaging) natural evaporation ponds with more efficient technology.
Piggybacking lithium recovery with geothermal energy is another avenue of approach. The US Energy Department’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory has been working on a reusable material that would extract lithium from concentrated brine at geothermal plants.

Not for nothing, but researchers estimate that there are 230 million tons of untapped lithium in ordinary seawater. Untapped it will probably remain in the near future, because the concentration of lithium in seawater is extremely low. However, researchers are already looking to the farther future when membrane extraction technology improves.

The Lithium-Free Electric Vehicle Of The Future

Then there’s the circular economy approach, in which lithium could be recovered from spent electric vehicle batteries.

That could be a long time coming, though. Electric vehicle batteries last a long time, and they could last even longer in a second life as stationary energy storage devices.

A whole ‘nother option is to come up with an electric vehicle battery that uses less lithium, or none at all.

After all, cobalt has been a mainstay of EV battery technology, and now it’s on the way out. Ditto for conventional lithium-ion technology, which is all of a sudden being replaced by solid state architecture and a lithium-metal formula.

So, could the electric vehicle of the future be powered by a lithium-free battery?

They will, if fans of sodium-ion batteries get their way. The sodium-ion field has a lot of catching up to do, but a new diagnostic approach developed by researchers at Argonne National Laboratory should help speed things up.

It also depends on what you mean by battery. After all, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles run on electricity, and they don’t use lithium. The passenger car area has been a challenge, but automakers are already beginning to diversify their approach to EV technology by investing in fuel cells for heavy duty vehicles (note: the environmental advantage depends on how quickly renewable hydrogen can replace fossil-sourced hydrogen).

In the category of farther future, flow battery technology could cross paths with hydrogen, if a new refillable version developed by a research team at Purdue University pans out.

Nuro’s self-driving vehicles to deliver prescriptions for CVS Pharmacy 28 May 2020

Nuro, the autonomous robotics startup that has raised more than $1 billion from SoftBank Vision Fund, Greylock and other investors, said Thursday it will test prescription delivery in Houston through a partnership with CVS Pharmacy. The pilot, which will use a fleet of the startup’s autonomous Toyota Prius vehicles and transition to using its custom-built R2 delivery bots, is slated to begin in June.

The partnership marks Nuro’s expansion beyond groceries and into healthcare. Last month, the startup dipped its autonomous toe in the healthcare field through a program to deliver food and medical supplies at temporary field hospitals in California set up in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pilot program centers on one CVS Pharmacy in Bellaire, Texas and will serve customers across three ZIP codes. Customers who place prescription orders via CVS’ website or pharmacy app will be given the option to choose an autonomous delivery option. These pharmacy customers will also be able add other non-prescription items to their order.
Once the autonomous vehicle arrives, customers will need to confirm their identification to unlock their delivery. Deliveries will be free of charge for CVS Pharmacy customers.

“We are seeing an increased demand for prescription delivery,” Ryan Rumbarger, senior vice president of store operations at CVS Health, said in a prepared statement. “We want to give our customers more choice in how they can quickly access the medications they need when it’s not convenient for them to visit one of our pharmacy locations.”

Nuro is already operating in the Houston area. Walmart announced in December a pilot program to test autonomous grocery delivery in the Houston market using Nuro’s autonomous vehicles. Under the pilot, Nuro’s vehicles deliver Walmart online grocery orders to a select group of customers who opt into the service in Houston. The autonomous delivery service involves R2, Nuro’s custom-built delivery vehicle that carries products only, with no on-board drivers or passengers, as well as autonomous Toyota Priuses that deliver groceries.

Nuro also partnered with Kroger (Fry’s) in 2018 to test autonomous Prius vehicles and its first-generation custom-built robot known as R1. The R1 autonomous vehicle was operating as a driverless service without a safety driver on board in the Phoenix suburb of Scottsdale. In March 2019, Nuro moved the service with Kroger to Houston, beginning with autonomous Priuses.

The company’s contactless delivery program shuttling medical supplies and food is also continuing. Under that program, which began in late April, Nuro’s R2 bots are used at two events centers — in San Mateo and the Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento — that have been turned into temporary healthcare facilities for COVID-19 patients. Nuro is delivering meals and equipment to more than 50 medical staff at both sites every week.

It’s unclear how long the field hospital program will continue. Last week, there were 25 patients across the two sites. The Sleep Train Arena is accepting patients through June 30 via California Office of Emergency Services. The hospital may be converted to a shelter for those affected by fires through the end of this year.

London is looking to increase cycling tenfold after the coronavirus 6 May 2020

It's the only way to deal with reduced capacity in the underground, and is a great example for other cities.

In North America, bikes are seen as recreation rather than transportation; that's why some cities like New York and Toronto have to be dragged kicking and screaming into providing room for them. But both of these cities are dependent on subways to move commuters and are faced with a serious problem of reduced capacity. London is even more reliant on the Underground, and is looking at bikes being part of the solution. Walking and Cycling Commissioner Will Norman (yes, they have someone doing that!) explains the straightforward mathematics in BikeBiz:

With London’s public transport capacity potentially running at a fifth of pre-crisis levels, up to eight million journeys a day will need to be made by other means. If people switch only a fraction of these journeys to cars, London will grind to a halt. Essential deliveries and emergency services will be stuck in gridlock and Londoners will once again be exposed to toxic traffic fumes and rising levels of road danger. Our city’s economic recovery will be choked off.

Parking and traffic lanes will be reduced or removed to provide more space for pedestrians and bikes, with pavements doubled in width in some areas. Traffic signals are being retimed to reduce pedestrian waiting, and more space will be provided at busy transit stops. Mayor Sadiq Khan is quoted: “The emergency measures… will help those who have to travel to work. Many Londoners have rediscovered the joys of walking and cycling during lockdown and ... we will enable millions more people to change the way they get around our city.”

They also project five times the amount of walking, with more people working from home and walking around their neighborhoods. Commissioner Norman explains:

Many people will continue to work from home for many months to come. We’re likely to have fewer longer journeys to work and more shorter journeys in our local neighbourhoods. We will rapidly transform local town centres on the TfL road network to enable these local journeys to be safely walked and cycled where possible, and work with the boroughs to make similar changes on their streets. Wider footways on high streets will facilitate a local economic recovery, with people having space to queue for shops as well as enough space for others to safely walk past while socially distancing.

This is where it gets really interesting, a vision not that different from the one laid out in TreeHugger's The Coronavirus and the future of Main Street, where more people working at home supported what Eric Reguly called "a relaunch of Jane Jacobs’s urban ideal, where neighborhoods have a diverse range of work and family functions."

Instead of spending billions on expensive subways and highways, it becomes an exercise in rebuilding shorter, local links serving revitalized neighborhood centers. But it also recognizes, finally, the importance of walking, bikes and now e-bikes as transportation, not just fitness or recreation. Cars take up a lot of space, and we don't have enough of it in our cities. We have to acknowledge, as they are in London, that we can't just hand our cities over to drivers and cars or we will just have gridlock and pollution. In an earlier post, E-bikes will eat ... buses? I quoted Morton Kabell: "A lot of people will be afraid of going on public transportation, but we have to get back to work someday. Very few of our cities can handle more car traffic."

Pop-up bikeways on the cards in Adelaide’s CBD as indecision stalls east-west route

ABC News 12 May 2020

Pop-up bikeways in Adelaide's CBD that could utilise existing car lanes are to be considered by the city's council as a temporary solution to long-awaited cycling infrastructure.

Key points:

A councillor is going to propose pop-up bike lanes as an experimental measure in Adelaide
The $5.5 million east-west bikeway has been delayed since announced in 2016
There are calls for more funding of cycling infrastructure to avoid traffic gridlocks post-COVID-19

City of Adelaide councillor Robert Simms said he wants to draw from "what's happening around the world and in other states" by implementing temporary bike lanes in the CBD.

"We want to look at what we can do in the short-term to accommodate more cyclists on our streets while we get bikeway construction underway," he told ABC Radio Adelaide.

"We've got lots of car parking that is not being used because of the pandemic. And even with the easing of restrictions at the moment we're still not going to see the volume of people coming into the city for some time.

"It could mean less [motor] lanes on arterial roads.

Debate stymies east-west bikeway

Debate over a long-awaited east-west bikeway through the CBD appears no closer to being settled as opinions on the best route continue to vary in the council — as they have for much of the latter half of last decade.
Proposals for the $5.5 million project have included using Grote and Wakefield streets, Flinders and Franklin streets, and Pirie and Waymouth streets.

The route is designed to connect with Frome Road's north-south bikeway, which has itself been the subject of controversy after its initial design was partially ripped up and re-designed in 2017.

"We've had big discussions about the east-west bikeway in Adelaide and where we are going to put it," Cr Simms said. "Maybe this is a chance for us to trial some routes, trial some options in a pop-up way and whether they work, before we get the permanent infrastructure happening."

Cr Simms' motion will be considered by the council at its monthly meeting Tuesday night.

Calls to boost infrastructure spending

Bicycle Institute of SA chairperson Katie Gilfillan said the high number of cyclists seen during COVID-19 restrictions proved it was a highly popular form of exercise among the community and deserved more funding from the state and local governments.

By way of example, BISA figures found more than 1,600 cyclists on average used the River Torrens Linear Park shared walkway during April this year, compared with just over 800 in April 2019.
"Within the City of Adelaide a lot of people would know there has been some significant delays on those bikeways," Ms Gilfillan said.
"We've been waiting on an east-west bikeway for some time and we were really hoping that, like Melbourne, Sydney, Milan and Paris, that post this COVID-19 period we would see that project pushed forward faster."
She said the State Government had increased its Planning and Development Fund to $50 million for "shovel-ready" local projects this year and hoped much of that money would be directed towards cycling infrastructure.

"On top of the extra funding they've got for local councils now we'd also like to see the State Government genuinely increasing funding for bike riding, which currently gets around 0.6 per cent of the total transport budget," Ms Gilfillan said.

"We'd like to see that increase to 5 per cent and for us to keep rolling out quality bike infrastructure that's low stress, so places where people don't have to battle with cars a lot."

This included more expenditure on arterial road crossings for routes that cyclists use through local streets.

"The majority of us use quieter local streets and they're often quite good, but we do need to get across those busy roads and they can be pretty hectic," Ms Gilfillan said.

Pop-up cycleways for central Sydney

Bicycle Network 18 May 2020
More than 10 kilometres of pop-up bike lanes will be installed in the City of Sydney in the coming weeks as part of the NSW state government's plan to ease coronavirus restrictions.

Six temporary bike lanes will be installed in key commuter areas to give people an easy alternative to public transport which will be running at reduced capacity to help people maintain physical distancing.

The new bike lanes will connect to the city's existing network of bike lanes and feed in from the the north, east, south and west. The locations of the new bike lanes are:

Bridge Road / Pyrmont Bridge Road at Pyrmont
Pitt Street North in the CBD
Moore Park Road in Paddington / Moore Park
Dunning Avenue at Rosebery
Sydney Park Road in Alexandria / Erskineville
Henderson Road at Eveleigh

The bike lanes will be matched with a trial of 40km/h speed limits in the villages of Camperdown, Ultimo and on Bridge Road between Annandale and Pyrmont.

Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore said that the pop-up bike lanes will help the city return from coronavirus restrictions.

“When someone rides to work, they take a car off the road or free up space on public transport – this will be even invaluable when people start returning to the City and seek to maintain physical distancing."
“The rapid roll-out of key connections in our cycleway network will improve safety for people riding to the City centre, school and health facilities, and reduce crowding on public transport," said Cr Moore.

Minister for Transport and Roads Andrew Constance said the new bike lanes will help people get to and from work safely.
“We are already seeing our public transport system at capacity during peak periods with the need to physical distance and we want to offer the community more options to make their journeys safer," said Mr Constance.
On top of the six confirmed bike lanes, plans are also being considered for temporary cycleways on Oxford Street in Paddington and Darlinghurst, King St in Newtown, Castlereagh and King streets in the CBD, and in a possible back-to-the future move, College Street.

College Street is a key commuter route and used to have a dedicated cycleway, but it was ripped up in 2015 under the direction of former roads minister Duncan Gay. Bike lanes on College Street and King Street have both been long-term campaigns of Bicycle Network.

‘Cleaner and greener’: Covid-19 prompts world’s cities to free public space of cars

The Guardian May 18 2020

The mayor of Athens has said he will “liberate” public space from cars. His counterpart in Paris says it is out of the question for the city to return to pre-coronavirus traffic and pollution levels. In Berlin, 14 miles (22 km) of new bike lanes have appeared almost overnight.
Around the world, from Dublin to Sydney, cities are being radically reshaped in favour of cyclists and pedestrians as empty streets give authorities the opportunity to implement and accelerate large-scale projects.

Cycling advocates and environmental activists are urging governments to ensure the revival is long-term and lasts beyond the pandemic, for fear of a pushback by the car lobby.

The Greek capital is embarking on one of the most ambitious rejuvenation schemes, which has been hastened by the pandemic, according to its mayor, Kostas Bakoyannis. He announced plans last week to allocate 50,000 square metres of public space for cyclists and pedestrians.

At the heart of the scheme will be a four-mile “grand walkway” uniting archaeological sites in the historic centre. Pavements will be widened, boulevards pedestrianised, squares enlarged and traffic banned from areas beneath the Acropolis.
The mayor of Athens has said he will “liberate” public space from cars. His counterpart in Paris says it is out of the question for the city to return to pre-coronavirus traffic and pollution levels. In Berlin, 14 miles (22 km) of new bike lanes have appeared almost overnight.
Around the world, from Dublin to Sydney, cities are being radically reshaped in favour of cyclists and pedestrians as empty streets give authorities the opportunity to implement and accelerate large-scale projects.
Cycling advocates and environmental activists are urging governments to ensure the revival is long-term and lasts beyond the pandemic, for fear of a pushback by the car lobby.

The Greek capital is embarking on one of the most ambitious rejuvenation schemes, which has been hastened by the pandemic, according to its mayor, Kostas Bakoyannis. He announced plans last week to allocate 50,000 square metres of public space for cyclists and pedestrians.

At the heart of the scheme will be a four-mile “grand walkway” uniting archaeological sites in the historic centre. Pavements will be widened, boulevards pedestrianised, squares enlarged and traffic banned from areas beneath the Acropolis.

Bakoyannis, who became Athens’ youngest mayor last year, openly admits that the pandemic played a role in accelerating infrastructure works that might have taken years to accomplish.

“We have this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and are fast-forwarding all our public works,” he said. “The goal is to liberate public space from cars and give it to people who want to walk and enjoy the city … Athens will be cleaner, greener and better lit.”

In Budapest, 12 miles of temporary bike lanes have been introduced on some of the city’s busiest roads over the past month.

The city’s mayor, Gergely Karácsony, who was elected last year on a largely green platform, had little trouble introducing the lanes after many people expressed their discomfort at the prospect of depending on the city’s excellent but usually packed public transport system during the pandemic.

The mayor’s office said it was monitoring traffic levels and that some of the temporary lanes may remain once life gets back to normal. It is planning a public consultation over where and how to introduce more bike lanes in the future.

Around 20 miles of temporary bike lanes have been set up across Paris, much to the disgruntlement of car lobbyists who have protested to city hall that their rights are being squeezed. Main roads such as the Rue de Rivoli and Rue Saint Antoine, a major east-west route, are gradually being sealed off to private vehicles and there are proposals for a further 30 miles of bike lanes in the city.

Many Parisians are being offered €50 toward getting old bikes repaired as part of the French capital’s €20m (£18m) planvélo to encourage the use of bicycles.

Those supporting the new push for bike travel point to recent studies, one of which showed the average journey by vehicle in Paris to is 2.5 miles – a comfortable distance by bike for most – and another indicating that the lack of exhaust fumes during lockdown has dramatically improved air quality in the city.

The city’s mayor, Anne Hidalgo, had made persuading people to abandon private cars in favour of bikes one of the pillars of her political programme even before she was elected mayor in 2014. Despite the car lobby’s hopes that motorised vehicles can reclaim the city once the virus is under control, Hidalgo has said it is out of the question for the city to return to the pre-coronavirus traffic jams and vehicle pollution.

Dublin city council has set aside swathes of Ireland’s capital for pedestrians and cyclists to facilitate physical distancing in a “temporary mobility plan” that may become permanent. Authorities singled out College Green, which abuts Trinity College, and other parts of the city centre for what promises to be a bold transformation.

The idea is to give pedestrians and cyclists more space to navigate the city when shops and other businesses reopen in a 12 to 18-month respite from traffic-choked streets.

Authorities in Milan, among the most polluted cities in Europe, have said 22 miles of streets will be transformed over the summer as part of a scheme to reallocate space from cars to cycling and walking. Congestion in Milan, which is usually clogged with traffic, has fallen between 30 and 70% during the lockdown, and air pollution with it.
Rome’s council has approved the construction of 93 miles of temporary and permanent cycle routes as a way to be more sustainable while allowing people to adhere to physical distancing rules. As part of the government’s economic decree, people in towns and cities with populations of 50,000 or more will also be able to claim up to €500 toward the cost of a new bike. The payment also applies to scooters, electric bikes and Segways.

Last year’s Tour de France victory by the Colombian Egan Bernal precipitated a cycling boom in Bogotá. Hundreds of miles of public highways are closed to cars on Sundays, allowing cyclists to take to the roads free of exhaust fumes and the blare of car horns.

This enthusiasm has made it easier for the mayor, Claudia López, herself a keen cyclist, to introduce more bike lanes as part of plans to reduce public transport use to 35% of capacity in the country’s effort to tackle the pandemic. Fifty miles of new bike paths were announced last week, on top of the 300 already in place.

Announcing that 7,000 people were using the bike paths in the working-class south of the city, Bogota’s transport secretary, Nicolás Estupiñan, tweeted: “Every day more Bogotanos are getting on, and staying on, their bikes!”

Similar developments are taking place from Brussels to Sydney, while transport officials in many US cities report an “explosion in cycling”. From “slow streets” programmes in California to the progressive closure of many streets in New York, some cities have said they plan to make the changes permanent.

In Berlin it can take up to a decade to create a new bike lane, but during the coronavirus crisis, 14 miles of pop-up bike lanes, separated from car lanes by traffic beacons, have been introduced in anything from three to 10 days. Most will be here to stay, city officials have said, arguing that increasing numbers of Berliners – at the last count 43% – have no car, and that bikes will help lessen the burden on public transport.

The ADAC, Germany’s automobile association, has been highly critical of what it has called officials’ “exploitation of an emergency”, which has been taking place in cities across the country.

“The temporary reduction in car traffic, and incidentally bike usage as well, cannot be used to enforce the permanent reallocation of traffic space,” Volker Krane, of the ADAC, told German media. He said the bike lanes did little to ensure the safety of bike riders.

Even in some cities that have not introduced specific measures to encourage bikes, cyclists are making their presence felt. In the Jordanian capital, Amman, they spoke of the joy of seizing empty roads from the aggressive driving culture that normally dominates them, after cars were banned for about six weeks.

Reporting team: Helena Smith in Athens, Shaun Walker in Budapest, Kim Willsher in Paris, Rory Carroll in Dublin, Angela Giuffrida in Rome, Joe Parkin Daniels in Bogotá and Michael Safi in Amman