Why 30 km/h is Best for Every City

People move through cities in whatever mode of transportation gets them from point A to point B efficiently. Car focussed developments restrained people’s freedoms by focussing only one form of transport, today cities need to incorporate as many forms of movement as possible. To help with this transition speed limits in cities ought to be limited to 30km/h. At that speed car drivers are less likely to kill with their vehicles and thereby ensure a safer city for all. What’s more it makes non-car based transit more efficient and thus reduces a city’s carbon footprint. There are so many benefits to limiting how fast a metal box can go!

When it comes to urban travel, 20 mph is a kind of magic number. It is under most scenarios the natural limit of how fast people can move through dense urban areas at an average clip. The New York City subway, which can and will go 55 mph on long straightaways—like the run on the 2 or 3 line from Times Square to 72nd Street—travels at an average speed of about 17 mph when taking into account time spent at stops, slowing down for curves, and the occasional delay due to train traffic ahead of us (other systems go faster, but they tend to be ones with longer distances between stops serving primarily suburban commuters; but by way of comparison, the London Underground’s average speed is, you guessed it, 20 mph). The average urban biking speed is something like six miles per hour when factoring in stops, but closer to 11 to 18 mph when in movement. E-bikes—which have the potential to revolutionize urban transportation and already have in many global cities—typically have a top speed right around 20 mph.

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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!

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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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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Leaded Gas for Cars Impossible to Buy Globally

small car

After decades of effort by environmentalists leaded gasoline for use in automobiles is impossible to buy anywhere on the planet. Last month Algeria ended sales for leaded gasoline which marked the end of the dangerous fuel for consumers according to the UN Environment Programme. All gas burning is bad for people and the planet, but leaded gasoline use was the worst.

The next step in getting rid of leaded gasoline is to ban it’s use in airplanes.

Petroleum containing tetraethyllead, a form of lead, was first sold almost 100 years ago to increase engine performance. It was widely used for decades until researchers discovered that it could cause heart disease, strokes and brain damage.

UNEP cited studies suggesting that leaded gas caused measurable intellectual impairment in children and millions of premature deaths.

Most rich nations started phasing out the fuel in the 1980s, but it was still widely used in low- and middle-income countries until 2002, when the UN launched a global campaign to abolish it.

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