Mobility and air quality in London: Silver linings from the pandemic
Three lockdowns since March 2020 greatly reduced mobility in Greater London, an area with high reliance on public transport. Risk aversion even reduced mobility in cities like Seoul and Auckland that effectively contained the virus.
The concentration of air pollutants in the Greater London area dropped 50% below the 2019 baseline level in March 2020, remaining below baseline for much of the period since, despite increasing road vehicle traffic. The biggest rises in air quality occurred in wealthier boroughs like Richmond, a glaring inequality.
Another stark inequality of the pandemic is the much higher share of residents of wealthier boroughs than poorer ones able to stay at home, also saving more precious time by reduced trips to the workplace. These benefits are much less available to low-income, and disproportionately BAME, residents of London, often essential workers.