The news that government and councils are looking to extend cycle lanes and walkways in order to help people get to work is welcome news.

Less encouraging is that an increase in the cars on the road also seems likely as part of the effort to ensure that people travel in ways that can ensure social distancing.

The sight of individuals sat in their cars with a mask on, thereby protecting themselves from coronavirus but merrily pumping out pollution, sure to damage everyone outside that vehicle, summarises some of the contradictions that have been thrown up over this period of crisis.

So first the good news, that cycle and pedestrian routes are to be enhanced in order that more people can get about via these means. The London Mayor has set his target of 80 per cent of all journeys to be via such means plus public transport by 2041.

This leap forward must be welcomed, though maybe it is less of a leap than a step, given that the use of public transport is to be restricted due to the social distancing requirements that need to be in operation to keep us all safe.

On the broader canvas of how society is reconstituted as we come out of lockdown and hopefully move toward a normalisation of life post virus, there are many issues up for debate.

There are those who just want to get back to how things were. They see lost months of production that have to be made up. This group prioritise the needs of business at all costs, even people’s health in some cases. The concern is that if this group get their way that there will be a doubling down on the pollution emitting processes that caused climate change in the first instance.

One of the few gains of this crisis has been a reduction in the level of emissions going into the atmosphere. These gains need to be built upon, not thrown away in a mad dash for growth.

This crisis has provided a space to take stock of the way we live. It has been found wanting in so many ways. The way in which the virus has hit the poorest, elderly and vulnerable members of our society hardest. These inequalities, together with the need to address that other great ongoing crisis – climate change – should be at the forefront of everyone’s thoughts coming out of this situation.

It is a sobering thought that in China, there were 3,500 deaths caused by the virus but 70,000 deaths avoided due to a reduction in pollution.

So going forward to a brave new world, we need to seize the opportunity that this crisis has offered. Recognise that a society as unequal and unjust as this one cannot be sustained. We must seek to redress these balances but also build on the gains made in areas like the environment. This is not a time to dash back to the old polluting dangerous ways in some ill thought out dash for growth.

  • Paul Donovan is a Redbridge Labour councillor for Wanstead village and blogger. See