A regularly seen warning on roads is that “speed kills” and cities have been slowing traffic around the world to protect pedestrians. However, have you thought about how speed as a concept kills? Over at the tech-worshipping magazine, Wired, they’re running an article that explores the idea that reaching for better speeds is in itself a problem. The need for speed is killing the planet and instead, they argue, we need to strive for efficiency.
Here’s the thing: These ideas for accelerating the future fail to address a far more pressing problem than our stalled speedometers. In the US, transportation accounts for 27 percent of the carbon we release into the air, more than any other sector of the economy. Four-fifths of that comes from cars and trucks. The internal combustion engine is rocketing us deeper into a climate crisis that demands an immediate—and big—reduction in those emissions. Hyperloops might run on clean electricity, but it would take decades for them to become extensive enough to replace a significant number of cars. Supersonic flight requires engines that use much more fuel, and more carbon, than slower planes. These rosy renderings of effortless whooshing hither and yon distract us from what the problem demands: a way forward that prioritizes not thoughtless speed but calibrated efficiency.
Back in 2003 London rolled out its congestion pricing to reduce traffic going into the city and provide more funding for transit solutions. The results have been predictable insofar that the air is cleaner, there are fewer cars downtown, and other transit solutions have become more prominent. It’s shocking that every city hasn’t copied London’s approach, and Vox recently took a look at the congestion plan to explore the concept.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently announced a plan to bring congestion pricing to New York City. The goal is to raise money for the city’s crumbling public transit system and reclaim the dangerously busy city streets. But what is congestion pricing, and can it actually solve all our transit woes? We took a look at London, a city that enacted a congestion charge in 2003, to see some of the benefits. Check out the video above to learn more.
Bad urban design makes for poor living conditions and when cars are involved it can mean lethal conditions. As people know all to well, the last century’s bizarre love of the automobile has given us a lot of issues that we need to deal with today. Some solutions are really complex (like climate change) while others can be solved easily through simple design tweaks. One fast and easy way to save lives is to lower the speed limits on cars. Another simple solution is to stop designing our streets to allow cars to travel at high speeds. Cars kill, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
Many people fear that slowing the speed limit in urban areas will dramatically increase journey time. However, average road speeds in cities are more determined by the frequency of intersections than speed limits. A safer speed limit can achieve more uniform speeds and reduce dangerous midblock acceleration, while adding little to overall journey times. Research from Grenoble, France has shown that a speed limit of 30 kmph (18.64 mph) rather than 50 kmph (31 mph) only added 18 seconds of travel time between intersections 1 km (.62 miles) apart. Lower speed limits may even reduce congestion in some cases, as they reduce the likelihood of bottlenecks. This has been observed in Sao Paulo, where lowering the speed limit on major arterials reduced congestion by 10 percent during the first month of implementation, while fatalities also dropped significantly.
Sitting in traffic is no fun and neither is being hit by a car. To solve both of these problems cities around the world are changing their intersections using colourful and bright paints. The idea is to help traffic flow better while providing safer spaces for pedestrian. The spin-off benefit is that the city looks cooler!
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – Sebategna Intersection
The intersection update in November 2017 was the first under the city’s Safe Intersections Program, a multi-year initiative to improve pedestrian safety through street design
Cars in cities just cause traffic and block other modes of transportation so one Spanish city decided to do something about and banned car traffic in its downtown. The results are a thriving downtown with local businesses performing better than before the ban. Locals prefer the lack of smog and the ability to just be able to get out and walk without risking their lives. Let’s hope more cities plan for a carless future!
The benefits are numerous. On the same streets where 30 people died in traffic accidents from 1996 to 2006, only three died in the subsequent 10 years, and none since 2009. CO2 emissions are down 70%, nearly three-quarters of what were car journeys are now made on foot or by bicycle, and, while other towns in the region are shrinking, central Pontevedra has gained 12,000 new inhabitants. Also, withholding planning permission for big shopping centres has meant that small businesses – which elsewhere have been unable to withstand Spain’s prolonged economic crisis – have managed to stay afloat.
Raquel García says: “I’ve lived in Madrid and many other places and for me this is paradise. Even if it’s raining, I walk everywhere. And the same shopkeepers who complain are the ones who have survived in spite of the crisis. It’s also a great place to have kids.”