Reducing Traffic Pollution Greatly Increases Health

Intersection

It’s well known that vehicular traffic is deadly no matter where it is and how much of it exists. Even with all the evidence cities in North America put cars first with the occasional protections like bike lanes and pedestrian crossings. What we also need to talk about is the threat cars bring to our lungs.

The Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment have released a report outlining how many health gains come from eliminating cars from our streets. Electric cars aren’t the solution because they are still only focused on single occupants and give off particulate matter when braking.

Recommendations for achieving those benefits include stronger fuel content and vehicle-type rules, restrictions on idling and the use of vegetation barriers along busy roads. Cities can also implement low-emission zones that favour electric vehicles, bicycles and public transit. Ventilation systems in buildings, which became a focus during the pandemic, can play an important role in preventing traffic-related pollutants from infiltrating indoor spaces.

But like many pollution issues of the past century, effective solutions typically require governments to motivate change.

“Problems like this just cannot be tackled at the individual level,” Dr. Green said. “If an individual is concerned about this issue, then they need to demand that their politicians take action.”

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Highways Make Traffic Worse, Transit Improves Traffic

Regular readers of this site already know that highways are amongst the worst ways to move people effectively and also a way to ensure urban development is built to cater to cars instead of human beings. Yet, in Ontario the government wants to build a $6 billion highway to promote low-density car-based development and increase the region’s carbon output. The utterly incompetent Conservative party is set on destroying the efforts of environmentalists and farmers to conserve prime farming land.

Building a highway isn’t good. If you want to actually improve transportation in Ontario – or almost anywhere – build better public transit. Vox explores this concept in a recent video.

The concept of induced demand has been around since the 1960s — nearly as long as the inception of the federal highway system — and has been proven by several studies since. But it still hasn’t stemmed the tide of big, expensive highway infrastructure projects as a Band-Aid to congestion.

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It’s Time for Less Speed and More Efficency

subway transit

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.

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London’s Congestion Pricing Works

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.

For further reading look to our sister site, Curbed: https://www.curbed.com/ https://www.curbed.com/search?q=conge…For information on New York’s potential earnings and benefits: http://www.hntb.com/HNTB/media/HNTBMe… And a closer look at how much money is wasted sitting in traffic: http://pfnyc.org/wp-content/uploads/2… Finally – Check out this article by Nicole Badstuber on how London congestion pricing has started to level out and the plans the city has in place to bring revenue back up: https://www.citylab.com/transportatio…

Make Cities Slow Again

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.

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