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Better Access to Urban Opportunities: Accessibility policy for cities in the 2020s

Photo credit: Nejdet Duzen/Shutterstock

As cities seek to recover from COVID-19 amid the climate emergency and increasing levels of poverty, this paper offers recommendations for national governments to boost recovery through policies that will make cities more accessible, sustainable and inclusive.

The pandemic has created opportunities to rethink urban spaces and improve people’s ability to move around cities and thrive. As places to connect people with opportunities, resources, goods, and services, cities can be used to define the pathway to a successful recovery and move away from business-as-usual urban development. National governments have a window of opportunity to put an inclusive, compact, connected, and clean urban vision into national recovery strategies and make cities more resilient to future shocks.

This new paper by researchers at LSE Cities and the OECD and produced for the Coalition for Urban Transitions, analyses COVID-19 recovery spending across nine countries – China, Colombia, Germany, Japan, Mexico, South Africa, South Korea, the United Kingdom and the United States – and makes recommendations to national governments to boost recovery and accelerate progress towards low-carbon, accessible and inclusive cities.

The paper highlights the potential for rapid transformation within cities. Many promising measures have been implemented by the spending, across the countries studied, including support for rail networks, urban public transport systems, electric vehicles, walking and cycling infrastructure and low traffic neighbourhoods. But some of the measures risk entrenching fossil fuel dependency for many years and could set countries back in terms of decarbonisation and urban accessibility.

The paper sets out six priorities for national governments:

  1. Realign national transport policies and budgets
  2. Reform housing and land use policy
  3. Support the trend towards hyper-localisation and the 15-minute neighbourhood
  4. Facilitate the growth of new urban mobility options and last-mile connectivity
  5. Encourage cities to reallocate road space and engage in tactical urbanism
  6. Provide new finance for metropolitan-wide transport systems.

In addition to these policy priorities, national policymakers need to address digital connectivity and urban freight as two policy blind spots in urban accessibility debates and take prompt action to leverage their transformative potential.

This paper was created in partnership with the OECD and LSE Cities.

Research programme:MobilityPolicy