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Transportation transportation Battery

World Car Free Day – re-thinking our daily commute

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by: Ariana M
world car free day    re thinking our daily commute

The past week has seen several sustainability-related events – we’ve celebrated Sustainable House Day, Zero Emissions Day and today we are turning our attention to World Car Free Day. Taking place on September 22nd, this event “promotes improvement of mass transit, cycling and walking, and the development of communities where jobs are closer to home and where shopping is within walking distance”.

It was established as a global event in 2000, but various projects of similar nature had taken place from time to time since 1956. Similar to Zero Emissions Day, World Car Free Day has set out a challenge:

  • To spend one carefully prepared day without cars.
  • To study and observe closely what exactly goes on during that day.
  • Then, to reflect publicly and collectively on the lessons of this experience and on what might be prudently and creatively done next to build on these.

We are going to focus on the last part of this challenge and look at the latest developments in eco-friendly transportation.

Making public transport greener

Copenhagen is a city with a green mission – the municipality has set a target of switching all of the city’s buses to electric power by 2030. And local operating company Movia is quickly moving towards reaching that goal – they have just announced that 41 new electric buses will join their fleet at once in 2019.

The Netherlands has an even more ambitious goal. Back in 2016, Environment Minister Dijksma has signed an agreement with all transport operators in the country that by 2025 all buses used in public transport should be electric or hydrogen-powered. By then, two of the country’s provinces (Noord-Brabant and Limburg) have already switched completely to electric vehicles and became the drivers behind that agreement. All electricity that powers the buses will be generated completely sustainably by solar panels or wind turbines in the region, lowering the CO2 emissions further.

Buses aren’t the only type of public transport that the Dutch are making more sustainable – the trains are quickly becoming greener every year. Holland’s national train company, Nederlandse Spoorwegen, became the world’s first railway company to get 100% of the energy needed to power its trains from wind. The company’s new goal is to re-use 75% of their waste by 2020.

Trams have long been considered the cleanest form of public transport and the city of Melbourne, Australia is aiming to take it one step further. Back in January 2017, Victorian government has announced the construction of two new solar farms that will power the trams. With transport being the second largest and fastest growing contributor to Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions, changes like these can make a huge difference and highlight more opportunities for improvement.

A small solution to a big problem

While making public transport greener is important, it is also crucial to remember that the main challenge is getting the public to wave goodbye to their cars. One of the problems to solve is accessibility – most of the time smaller towns and villages simply do not have good access to public transport and thus living there makes owning a car a necessity rather than a luxury. The City of Candiac in Québec, Canada is currently hosting a long-term demonstration project for an autonomous electric shuttle that is aiming to promote use of public transport in such underserved areas. These shuttles have a capacity of 15 passengers and will run throughout the fall of 2018. Once winter season starts, the project will enter an experimentation phase without passengers to test the shuttle’s performance in winter conditions. This approach sounds very promising and hopefully we will see more similar projects taking place around the world.

Other sustainable alternatives to cars

Of course mass transit isn’t the only way to reduce the amount of cars on our roads. Malta’s Public Transport has teamed up with Ioscoot to introduce a more eco-friendly alternative to renting a car on the island – electric motorbikes. This initiative is set to become a solution to both carbon footprint and traffic problems. The service allows users to pick up and drop off scooters at designated spots and all they need is to download the app and have a valid moped licence. All of the scooters have space for 2 passengers and have 2 helmets in different sizes in their storage compartments. Ioscoot is already offering this service in Madrid and Barcelona, where it is already quite successful.

It is impossible to write about sustainable car alternatives without mentioning bicycles. More cities are adjusting their roads to include bike paths and are closing off inner cities for cars. Cycling offers many benefits, such as low cost, the ability to avoid traffic and of course it provides the exercise many of us have to time for otherwise. One of the biggest drawbacks of cycling is the question of storage – in some areas bike racks are hard to come by and hallway space is too valuable. And what about those situations where you happen to need your bicycle when you are at work or out with your friends, while it’s locked in front of your house? These reasons are exactly why bike-sharing is becoming incredibly popular. In 2008 there were only 128 bike-sharing services worldwide – today there are more than 1’600! Companies that are traditionally associated with cars – such as Uber and Lyft – are entering that market as well.

There are a lot of efforts to make our commutes easier and “greener”, and while some of them are focused on the longer term many solutions are available to us today. So if you haven’t biked since you were in school – World Car Free Day is the perfect opportunity to brush up that skill!

Are there any eco-friendly transport initiatives taking place in your area? Tell us all about them in the comments!

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