• 13 January 2021
  • Challenges

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TUMI COVID Challenges – Every big mobility solution started small. We help small solutions fly.

by Leonie Guskowski

Pilot projects are key to starting the sustainable mobility transformation at a global scale. Through pilots, cities can test their ideas and gain experience to later implement large-scale sustainable mobility measures.

Our annual Global Urban Mobility Challenge, otherwise known as the TUMI Challenge, helps promote and support innovative pilots of cities around the globe, from open streets to data collection to promotion of mobility start-ups, from Asia to Africa to Latin America, successful and valuable projects have been conducted.

In 2020, the world was struck by the COVID-19 pandemic, and for a moment, the world seemed to stand still. Cities around the world had to react quickly to the crisis, finding ways to adapt to the ‘new normal’. After overcoming the first shocks, an unforeseen outcome quickly became clear: COVID-19 not only had impacts on our health systems and economies, but it also led to changes in mobility.

TUMI realized that in order to ensure people’s mobility, health, and safety, cities needed to be supported in reacting to their citizens’ new mobility needs and habits.

So today, we are happy to announce the TUMI COVID Challenges!

We collaborated closely with our TUMI partners to cities around the world that we could support in their mobility solutions to counteract COVID-19 or to strengthen resilience of their urban mobility systems. Through the TUMI COVID Challenges, cities in Latin America, Africa and Asia will receive the support they require. With cycling as a mode of transport having proven particular resilience throughout challenging times, many of the TUMI COVID Challenges focus on promoting and improving the urban cycling networks. This way, the TUMI COVID Challenges do not only ensure resilient urban mobility systems, they also accelerate the sustainable mobility transformation!

Cuenca, Ecuador was one of the first cities selected to participate in the COVID Challenges. When COVID hit, the city went into lockdown to prevent the spread of the virus. As public transportation became inactive during this time, the city noticed a sharp increase in cycling. Even though cycling infrastructure existed, the bike lane network was by no means comprehensive. Because cycling became the most resilient mode of transport, the city recognized the potential for the short-term and long-term.

In order to respond to the new mobility needs of the citizens and to ensure the safety of cyclists, the city decided to improve the urban bike lane network. In a short period of time, the city was able to construct new infrastructure. However, it was not long until technical limitations had to be faced. The intersections in particular were built with a strong car-orientation, so carefully designing the bike lanes so as to ensure the cyclists’ security became a priority. This is where the TUMI COVID Challenges came in.

Appropriate cycling infrastructure is necessary to ensure citizens’ mobility in times of crisis and beyond. Through the broad international network of experts, TUMI was able to identify a cycling infrastructure specialist (from Copenhagenize) to assist the city of Cuenca in designing their intersections safely and according to international standards and guidelines. Furthermore, TUMI, CAF and the local team in Cuenca are aiming to integrate social aspects, such as participation, gender-inclusion, and social acceptance by raising awareness, into the project.

Another city that has been selected to be part of the TUMI COVID Challenges is Belo Horizonte in Brazil. Similar to the situation in Cuenca, the city noticed an increased desire for safe cycling infrastructure and safe public spaces for citizens to meet while adhering to COVID regulations and social distancing recommendations. In a joint process with a number of partners, such as World Recourses Institute, UN-Habitat, Wuppertal Institute and the municipality of Belo, a set of measures is being implemented in the district Santa Tereza.

The project consists of several components, such as the redesign of public spaces, the implementation of a rotary designed for speed management called Zone-30, and the construction of safe cycling infrastructure. Through the TUMI COVID Challenges, TUMI supports the mobility components of the project, in order to ensure essential and resilient mobility, while promoting sustainable transport alternatives.

These two cities, as part of the TUMI COVID Challenges, demonstrate great examples of mobility responses to COVID-19. In addition to these cities and their approaches, TUMI supports other cities in the rapid implementation of their mobility solutions. Get excited for what’s to come!