In a period dominated by climate election pledges and sustainability news stories, among the most interesting green announcements in recent memory surfaced just before Christmas.
The declaration that made us sit up and take notice was this: in just a few months, the City of London’s Beech Street will ban traditionally-fuelled (petrol and diesel-powered) vehicles, creating the UK’s first-ever completely zero-emission street. The road, which is currently a notorious emissions hotspot, will be restricted to zero-emission vehicles, cyclists and foot traffic only, with special exceptions made for emergency vehicles.
Running initially on an 18-month trial basis, during which its impact on air quality will be regularly measured, the scheme is intended to reduce nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels in the area down to the legally-mandated amount stipulated by the World Health Association and the European Union.
Research from the British Heart Foundation recently found that breathing London’s polluted air is the equivalent of smoking more than 150 cigarettes a year. Given this, as well as polluted air’s capacity to cause heart disease, depression, and even stunt children’s growth, any step to make transport more environmentally-friendly implemented can only be seen as positive.
However, considering that the problems transport currently causes are by no means limited to air pollution, are zero-emission streets – while welcome from a sustainability perspective -enough in isolation? We would argue not. It is our belief that fixing recurrent transport problems, such as bottlenecks and crippling traffic congestion in urban areas, will mean taking proactive steps to take vehicles off the road entirely.
Indeed, it could even be argued that zero-emission streets are merely the latest in a series of well-intentioned government initiatives – such as the rollout of Ultra-Low Emission Zones (ULEZs), or Bristol’s recently-announced Clean Air Zone – that are further holding back shared transport. These measures penalise older cars in favour of single-occupancy electric alternatives, rather than actively promoting the shared transport initiatives that will genuinely create a greener planet long-term.
To properly solve the challenges facing the transport sector – both in terms of sustainability and traffic congestion – more focus should be placed on how to take cars off our roads and reduce single-occupancy vehicle use, rather than short-sightedly push everybody to replace their cars with electric alternatives.
A prominent example of an area where this action is particularly needed is the school run, which is currently responsible for as many as one in four cars on the road during rush hour due to the amount of parents driving their kids to and from school, causing major congestion each day.
While replacing cars on the school run with electric alternatives will go some way towards reducing emissions, a 49-seater shared coach can take as many as 31 cars off the road, cutting emissions by 75% per 20-mile shared journey while also greatly reducing both congestion and the risk of car accidents.
The future of sustainable transport lies in applying thinking like this to transport as a whole; looking beyond merely swapping traditionally-fuelled cars out for electric alternatives, and instead placing greater focus on shared transport and Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS). Through this, we can change how people move in a way that both aids the planet and greatly improves our everyday quality-of-life.
Whether you’re a school looking to reduce its carbon footprint, a concerned parent, or even a business looking to cut down the number of staff driving to and from work, we want to hear from you. Want to do your bit to take cars off the road and create cleaner, greener roads for all? Let’s have a chat.
If you’re interested in finding out how we can work together to revolutionise the way the world travels, feel free to drop us a line at https://www.ridekura.com/contact-us/