Transport and Environment

The lockdown prompted a significant change in transport use: public transport has been used only for essential journeys, car use has fallen as people stayed home, and walking and cycling increased as people were encouraged to take daily exercise near home. Air quality has improved drastically as a result. Although public transport and car use are increasing once more, its enforced reduction has heightened awareness of the environmental impact among policy makers, the public and business leaders. Our survey respondents have appreciated reduced traffic, noise, and improved air quality. Several commentators have suggested the lockdown provides an opportunity for a new approach to economic and social growth in the form of a green recovery plan.

Since the start of the pandemic, walking has been the most common form of transport, with almost three-quarters of respondents saying they had walked every day.

91% of respondents reported they had not used public transport during the lockdown period.

81% of 18-24 year olds, 76% of Londoners and just 62% of people describing themselves as Black or Black British say they had not used public transport during lockdown.

45% of those who only walked weekly before lockdown now said they were walking daily, while 16% said they were walking less frequently. Only 15% of daily car users before lockdown maintained this level of car use during lockdown, with 62% dropping to weekly use.

One respondent is in her 50s, and living in South East England. She works in healthcare and although it is a clinical role, she has managed to do a lot of work from home including meetings, telephone clinics and has had access to the same computer systems as her work.

However, she is concerned about when she does need to go to her place of work, which is in London, because she wants to avoid travelling on the tube. She found the initial management of transport getting in and out of London from home inadequate:


“In the beginning of the lockdown travel on the tube was badly managed. London Underground put on less trains so people could not social distance as the tubes were busier. Train frequency has been less which has meant it has been inconvenient especially when trains are cancelled. I use Santander cycles in London but availability has been poor at times.”


And she believes that social distancing is almost impossible with our current transport infrastructure. She says:


“Life must not go back to how it was before particularly with respect to travel where hundreds of people are crammed together on public transport.”

“I think I will be frightened of using public transport, certainly won’t want to use the Tube or a rush hour train. I used to take trains and fly at least 4 times a month!”

Woman, 60s, South West England

“Tube services will probably get worse/more crowded because of the contradiction in reducing the number of trains to improve distancing”

Man, 30s, London

“We have enjoyed the cleaner air and the reduced level of pollution brought about by less traffic on the roads. I hope that people will continue not to rely on cars so much once lockdown is eased.”  

Woman, 60s, Yorkshire and Humber

“It’s made us realise that we may be able to manage with one car rather than two. Or possibly an all-electric second car. We will not be commuting into London on the train for the foreseeable future.”  

Woman, 50s, East England

“Air quality is notably better. Less traffic is an absolute positive and must stay!!”

Woman, 30s, South West England