Source: Bike Boom
As reported in the Guardian by Tim Burns, the switch from diesel and gas vehicles is vastly overrated. Sure, there will be an increase in air quality but think of this: the only thing you are changing is the fuel source of “the type of heavy box” that people travel around in and insist on bringing to city streets. And that is where the opportunity is-we can all reduce air pollution even more, and change the way streets and public ways are used by two simple things-encouraging more people to ride bikes, and encouraging people to walk for short, convenient trips.
As Burns notes “In 2015, only 2% of trips in England were made by bicycle despite the average length of each trip being only seven miles. Switching from cars to bikes would not only reduce air pollution but solve many of the biggest issues facing our cities and towns.”
We’ve all seen that neat little graphic showing that a 3.5 meter wide single lane “can transport 2,000 people an hour in cars, the same lane can be used to transport 14,000 people on bicycles – and this doesn’t even take into account the space saved on parking. With limited space in cities and rising populations, transport planning has to focus on the most efficient way of getting around.” And that includes pedestrians walking too.
While changing from diesel to electric vehicles will help with asthma and air pollution related deaths, driving those vehicles does not promote greater physical fitness. Biking is a gold standard for physical activity. Switching from diesel to electric vehicles will help reduce early deaths associated with air pollution but it will do little to encourage greater physical activity, so necessary for healthy, happy citizens. “Research from the University of Glasgow recently found cycling regularly reduced the incidence of cancer by 45%, heart disease by 46%, and of death by any cause by 41%.”
“Sir Liam Donaldson, the former chief medical officer for England once said: “The potential benefits of physical activity to health are huge. If a medication existed which had a similar effect, it would be regarded as a wonder drug or miracle cure.” And it’s good for society too – Transport for London calculated that if all Londoners walked or cycled for 20 minutes a day this would save £1.7bn in National Health Service treatment costs over 25 years in the capital alone.”
While cities are touting banning diesel and gasoline vehicles in favour of electric, there is a huge opportunity to create the type of walking and cycling infrastructure that is supportive of enhancing the health of communities, the gold standard for livability. Let’s remember to create cities and streets for people, not just vehicles in this move from diesel and gas to electric.