We can Save 200,000 Lives a Year Replacing Car Commutes with Bicycles

a couple, bicycles

A simple modification to our cities can save a lot of lives: add more and better bicycling infrastructure. Researchers looked into quantifying how many lives we can save by replacing car journeys with bicycle use and the results aren’t surprising, but will hopefully influence people. The harms vehicular traffic does to our bodies and our communities are well documented so the fact that using car less will save lives isn’t schocking. It’s great to see more evidence and analysis into how getting rid of cars will improve everyone’s well being.

Biking plays a significant role in urban mobility and has been suggested as a tool to promote public health. A recent study has proposed 2050 global biking scenarios based on large shifts from motorized vehicles to bikes. No previous studies have estimated the health impacts of global cycling scenarios, either future car-bike shift substitutions.

We found that, among the urban populations (20–64 y old) of 17 countries, 205,424 annual premature deaths could be prevented if high bike-use scenarios are achieved by 2050 (assuming that 100% of bike trips replace car trips). If only 8% of bike trips replace car trips in a more conservative scenario, 18,589 annual premature deaths could be prevented by 2050 in the same population. In all the countries and scenarios, the mortality benefits related to bike use (rather than car use) outweighed the mortality risks.

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Thanks to Mike!

Paris, the City of Bike Lights

When I visited Paris long ago it was a traffic clogged mess, with lovely architecture. Parisians have had enough of bad traffic and decided to solve their mobility challenges by adding more ways to get around the city. Thy’ve already returned urban space to pedestrians and started to build more infrastructure for bicycles.

The excellent YouTube channel Not Just Bikes took a good look at what’s happening in Paris, and things are looking good.

The French capital is investing €250 million into significant upgrades to cycling infrastructure and maintenance within the next four years. Thousands of new bicycle stands and an increased number of protected cycleways will be introduced as part of ‘Plan Velo: Act 2’.

As of this year, Paris already has more than 1,000km of safe cycle paths including around 52km of “coronapistes” that were temporarily introduced during the pandemic. It now plans to make these permanent and add another 130km of safe paths to encourage people to cycle in the city.

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Electric Public Transportation is the Future, Not Cars

Good Street from Streetmix

Politicians and car makers will often tout that the future of sustainable transportation lies in electric vehicles. Let’s be clear: cars won’t save us. In fact, cars are responsible for a lot of death on our streets and for supply chains that cause great harm to the environment. Instead, electric public transportation is where we should put our focus and funding. Should we still replace gas sucking cars with electric, of course. Let’s just be honest with ourselves that single occupant vehicle solutions will not help us in the future.

More cars in cities mean more space taken for parking, less room and more danger for active modes and less efficient public transport. Plugging in a car doesn’t stop it from being a lethal machine or causing congestion.

There is still no clear and sustainable pathway to manage the e-waste generated by EVs. Electric cars are not “green”. They still use tyres which create massive waste streams. Tyre wear produces microplastics that end up in our waterways and oceans.

Although EVs use regenerative braking, which is better than traditional internal-combustion cars, they still use brake pads when the brakes are applied. Braking generates toxic dust composed of heavy metals like mercury, lead, cadmium and chromium. These heavy metals make their way to our streams and rivers, embedding themselves in these waterways forever.

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Glenfiddich Whisks Whisky Waste into Fuel

The whisky distiller Glenfiddich has converted its fleet of trucks to be powered by waste products from making whisky. It’s a classic bio waste to bio gas setup. The trucks were converted from diesel to biodiesel engines and the waste from distilling was gathered and converted to biodiesel.

With such a high profile distiller taking this logical, cost saving, and planet saving action we will hopefully see others follow.

Experts now add that its waste products could also benefit the environment. The biogas emitted by whisky’s production process cuts CO2 emissions by over 95 per cent compared to diesel and other fossil fuels and reduces other harmful particulates and greenhouse gas emissions by up to 99 per cent, Glenfiddich said.

The trucks Glenfiddich is using are converted vehicles from truck maker Iveco that normally run on liquefied natural gas. Each biogas truck will displace up to 250 tonnes of CO2 annually, according to the distiller.

Glenfiddich has a fleet of around 20 trucks and Watts believes the technology could be applied throughout the delivery fleets of William Grant and Sons’ whisky brands. It could also be scaled up to fuel other company’s trucks.

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Make Believe Ideas and the City

streetcar

The mayor of Toronto, like other 20th century mayors, believes in mystical solutions to urban problems. In the 21st century smart mayors are shedding the myths and make-believe thinking around urban design. In forward looking places we see neighbourhoods made livable and large swaths of land made into the human scale. Paris is opening more areas for people and even New York reclaiming useless land. What am I referring to? Cars. The magic ability of cars to solve all problems. Over at Spacing they have quite the piece on this make-believe notion we should abandon.

In the make-believe world, the car is a necessity, which allows many planners and politicians to resist changes that adversely affect “traffic” on roads. Thirty percent of Toronto households nonetheless manage to get around without owning a car, even while their transit journeys are routinely blocked by cars. A measurement of traffic volume by all modes along the Bloor corridor in October 2019 showed 267,000 daily trips, among which there were only 17,000 cars. Politicians nonetheless claimed that a proposed bike lane in the same stretch would prevent people from going downtown.

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