European Mobility Week 2021 will take place from 16 to 22 September and, without neglecting the reduction of emissions, will focus on four central themes: mental health, physical health, safety and the response to COVID-19.
The relationship between mental health and urban mobility has gained importance during the pandemic. It highlights how transportation can influence people’s mental health and well-being.
Anxiety and stress caused by congestion creates mental health deterioration. Several studies indicate that active mobility reduces depression, anxiety and other mental health problems.
Moving around, whether walking or cycling, increases blood flow, releases endorphins, and lowers overall stress levels. A 30-minute walk a day helps improve mental health, improve general mood and sleep quality, as well as reduces stress, anxiety and fatigue. Physically active people reduce the risk of depression by up to 30%.
In terms of noise pollution, 20% of the European population is exposed to long-term noise levels that are harmful to health.
Atmospheric pollutants, mainly particulate matter and nitric oxides, have been associated with poor mental health leading to depressive symptoms and worsening of excessive depressive symptoms in case of prolonged exposure.
This poor air quality is also associated with poor physical health. According to the WHO, there are 376,000 premature deaths annually in the EU directly caused by fine particle pollution.
Active mobility has two positive effects: improving physical health and reducing emissions. A British study concluded that people who commute by bicycle have a 52% lower risk of dying from heart diseaseand a 40% lower risk of dying from cancer. Another result of the study is that the risk of developing heart disease is reduced by 46% and the risk of developing cancer by 45%.
Regarding safety, it is about improving transport safety, especially for the most vulnerable groups, as well as reinforcing road safety to reduce accidents and deaths.
In this sense, it is essential to increase the pedestrianization of spaces, reduce traffic and reduce speed limits in cities.
Finally, the European authorities would like to highlight the various measures in response to COVID-19 in terms of urban mobility and how they have had a significant impact on public life.
It is essential to establish trust in public transport to reduce private car use, but maintain the approach to active mobility, walking and cycling, that was encouraged and increased during the pandemic. In addition, as a result of mobility restrictions, European cities observed a reduction in nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and PM2.5 particles’ pollution levels. And a decrease in road traffic fatalities.