A world made for (or of) cars
During the 20th century we all thought that development was unlimited. Some decades ago futurists foresaw that automated driving (self driven cars) would replace conventional cars, that there would be excessive speed on the motorways, flying cars a reality, jet mechanisms would allow pedestrians to fly over cities, the sky would be full of helicopters, the systems of magnetic suspension would be widely applied and of course trips into space would become an everyday event. It would be a hitech and very happy world.
Cars, as one of the major invention of the 20th century, in fact have proved all predictions correct and they have developed with unbelievable rhythms.
Nowadays, traffic congestion is one of the main problems in European cities as 30% of car trips in Europe are under 3km and 50% are under 5km – a 15 minute bike ride (EEA Report No 5/2009). Motorised transport imposes high costs on individuals and society, both directly (road construction and maintenance) and indirectly (casualties, obesity, pollution, congestion, etc.). The European Commission (COM 2009/279) estimates the external costs of road transport (mostly individual motorised transport) at 2.6 % of GDP. Other studies suggest as much as 4% and 8%.
Reducing car use and increasing cycling will unclog roads and reduce congestion and associated delays, lost working hours and wasted fuel. Additionally, 40% of Europe’s CO2 emissions from road transport and 70% of other pollutants are due to urban traffic. As recognised in EU Communication 2009/279, urban transport accounts for 40% of CO2 emissions, and 70% of other air pollution, in particular PM10 and NOx emissions, from transport. Tripling the modal share of cycling would save 5% of transport CO2 emissions by 2020. This would make a significant contribution to mitigating climate change and decreasing dependency on fossil fuels.
Cycling towards better quality of life
Shift from car to cycling provides an opportunity for huge cost savings. Increasing the modal share of cycling enhances physical and mental health. Accidents involving cars are associated with cycling and walking, too. Nevertheless, on balance, the benefits to life expectancy of choosing to cycle are 20 times the injury risks incurred by that choice (WHO, 2000). Higher proportions of commuter cyclists are correlated with lower risks of casualties. Car drivers are used to the presence of cyclists and are more likely to be cyclists themselves.
Increased uptake of cycling leads to reduced land consumption, as 10 bikes can be parked in the space required for one car. One lane of typical road can accommodate 2,000 cars per hour – or 14,000 bikes.
(source: Copenhagenize Design Co. 2013)
Fostering of investment and neighborhood revitalisation: Cycle-friendly cities attract individuals & businesses investment, encourage neighborhood revitalisation and can improve a city’s quality of life and environment.
Something is changing…?
In recent years it is true that regeneration of public spaces, the awakening of public and the bicycle, the increase of pedestrians in city centers have been impressive. There is the impression that something is changing. But with the exception of a few countries in Europe where the bicycle is regaining popularity, on a world level we observe a lot of conflicting examples. In Asian countries where the bicycle dominates, now motorbikes have taken over. In China cycle routes are getting narrower so that cars can pass, only tourists cycle in Vietnam. Even in Copenhagen, the famous bicycle city, the car travels at the highest speed.
Source: “Organisation Internationale des Constructeurs d’Automobiles” (OICA)
But according in a study 2007 of the US Department of Τransportation – Federal Highway Administration for the USA and European countries. Indeed it shows that the use of the car in the western world has stabilized. These results are validated by a recent research of Newman and Kenworthy (2011) who investigated the development of increased use of cars in 25 cities on various continents, revealing that there the growth of car use is steadily decreasing these last decades with a sharp decline 1995-2005
The question is if the developing world will follow the example and from which point. If it reaches the level of the western world, then it would be too late.
The future of mobility depends on the shape our world will take. World economy, politics, society. It is exceptionally difficult to foresee all these things. Everything is possible.
Heaven and Hell