People Power: walking and cycling on agenda at Paris Climate event
Encouraging an urban mobility mode shift to cycling and walking could almost halve carbon emissions from urban passenger transit by 2050, saving trillions of dollars, an event organised by the FIA Foundation at the Paris Climate talks has heard.
New research on the potential impact of cycling by the Institute of Transportation Studies at UC Davis and the Institution for Transportation & Development Policy was presented by a co-author, Lew Fulton, at a session on walking and cycling hosted by the Foundation during the Partnership for Sustainable Low Carbon Transport (SLoCaT) ‘Transport Day’ in Paris on 6th December 2015. Dr Fulton, co-director of the STEPS programme at UC Davis, described how political leadership would be needed to deliver a package of policy measures including massive new investment in cycling infrastructure, coordinated land use planning, phasing out of subsidies for motoring and dedication of transport system revenues to sustainable transport investment, if significant modal shift for short urban journeys was to be achieved, with the accompanying reductions in CO2 emissions. The report, ‘A Global High Shift Cycling Scenario: The Potential for Dramatically Increasing Bicycle and E-bike Use in Cities Around the World, with Estimated Energy, CO2, and Cost Impacts’ was funded by the European Cyclist’s Federation, whose Secretary General, Bernard Ensink, participated in the panel discussion.
The event also heard from Bronwen Thornton, Development Director of Walk21, a global collective of pedestrian organisations, about the reductions in CO2 emissions and road traffic injuries, and improvements in air quality, that could be achieved if walking was prioritised in urban and transportation planning. Describing walking as ‘the truly zero-carbon form of mobility’, Bronwen Thornton also urged greater political commitment for pedestrian rights to reflect the proportion of trips made on foot, but also the amount of time – equivalent to car use – spent walking.
For the World Resources Institute, Global Strategy and Policy Director Holger Dalkmann described some of the actions cities like Sao Paulo in Brazil are taking to redress the balance between motorised and non-motorised transport, such as introducing separated bicycle lanes, and the need for more compact cities – comparing the travel patterns and car use of compact Barcelona and sprawling Atlanta. Although a similar size in terms of population, Barcelona has annual carbon emissions of 0.7 tonnes per person, while Atlanta’s per capita emissions are 7.5 tonnes. Discussing the success of the Netherlands in improving urban facilities for walking and cycling, and dramatically reducing road traffic injuries and particularly child fatalities, since the 1970’s, he also stressed the vital importance of political champions and the need for political courage in deciding to implement changes which might at first, as in Sao Paulo, prove unpopular with motorists.
For a perspective from a major city grappling with huge inequality and decades of under-investment in transport for the majority of people, the session heard from Cllr Christine Walters, the Mayoral Committee Member for Transportation for Johannesburg. Cllr Walters explained that, as a sprawling urban area of 4.4 million people, Johannesburg is responsible for more than 50% of South Africa’s carbon emissions. At the same time, 67.4% of households live on less than R3200 per month with a large percentage of poor households’ income going towards transport. Under Mayor Mpho Parks Tau, the city is trying to prioritise active mobility, and hosted the 2015 Eco Mobility World Festival in October, which saw temporary reclassification of some street space for public transport, new cycle lanes and pedestrian access. Now the city is trying to build a legacy from the Festival, including a new pedestrian bridge, more cycle-lanes and encouraging regular alternative use of street space by local communities. Cllr Walters also highlighted that political leadership was vital to sustain this kind of effort.
Moderating the meeting, the FIA Foundation’s director, Saul Billingsley, set out some of the ways the Foundation is supporting walking and cycling policies. These include a ‘Share the Road’ initiative with the UN Environment Programme to support development of non-motorised transport policies by governments and cities; working with UNICEF to promote child rights in the context of safe mobility; the iRAP safe road assessments which review and star rate cycle and pedestrian safety in more than 70 countries; and a new partnership with the World Resources Institute’s Center for Sustainable Cities to implement design improvements for pedestrians and cyclists in cities in Brazil, Mexico and Turkey. Saul Billingsley highlighted the opportunity presented by the combination of COP21, the new SDG targets related to transport and the forthcoming HABITAT III conference in 2016, to embed active mobility policies in climate, road safety, health and urban agendas.