Researchers rank the 12 best ways to get cars out of cities

Bernice


Question: what do the following statistics have in common?

Answer: the vehicles on our streets, primarily the not-so-humble passenger car.

Despite the (slow) migration to electric-powered cars, consumer trends are making driving even more wasteful and unequal. A recent analysis found the emissions saved from electric cars have been more than canceled out by the increase in gas-guzzling Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs). Around the world, SUVs alone emit more carbon pollution than Canada or Germany, and are causing a bigger increase in climate pollution than heavy industry.

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While cars are sometimes necessary for people’s mobility and social inclusion needs — not least those with disabilities — car-centric cities particularly disadvantage the already marginalized. In the UK, women, young and older people, those from minority communities and disabled people are concentrated in the lowest-income households, of which 40% do not have a car. In contrast, nearly 90% of the highest-income households own at least one car.

So the driving habits of a minority impose high costs on society, and this is especially true incities. Copenhagen, for example, has calculated that whereas each kilometer cycled benefits society to the tune of €0.64 (53 pence), each kilometer driven incurs a net loss of -€0.71 (-59p), when impacts on individual wellbeing (physical and mental health, accidents, traffic) and the environment (climate, air, and noise pollution) are accounted for.

So each kilometer traveled where a car is replaced by a bicycle generates €1.35 (£1.12) of social benefits — of which only a few cents would be saved by switching from a fossil-fuelled to an electric-powered car, according to this analysis.

Reducing car use in cities

Half a century ago, the Danish capital was dominated by cars. But following grassroots campaigns to change policies and streets, including replacing car parking with safe, separated bike lanes, Copenhagen has increased its biking share of all trips from 10% in 1970 to 35% today. In 2016, for the first time, more bicycles than cars made journeys around the city over the course of that year.

cycling in Amsterdam