American Climate Scientist Kim Nicholas is looking for city leaders willing to implement not just one, but several of the measures it and a colleague have identified to reduce driving.
The measures are ranked in order of effectiveness in a paper published last week in Transport Policy Case Studies†
The literature search analyzed car taming techniques published in more than 800 separate studies. The European cities covered in the study included Nottingham, England; Copenhagen, Denmark; and Bologna, Italy.
Rome, Italy, drew attention to a 20% reduction in car traffic thanks to the restriction of access to residents only. Fines are being plowed into the city’s public transportation system.
But London in England proved to have taken the most effective measure. The UK capital reduced city center traffic by 33% after the introduction of a congestion charge in February 2003. It can now cost motorists more than $20 to pass through London’s congestion charge zone.
Nicholas is an associate professor at the Lund University Center for Sustainability Studies in Sweden. Together with Paula Kuss, from the same institution, she produced her paper to assess the effectiveness of several initiatives introduced to reduce car use in the city.
Through a Zoom call, Nicholas told me she believed that congestion charging is the most effective measure because it ‘makes the ‘cost of driving visible’.
She added that many of the costs of driving are currently hidden.
“Society pays much of the cost of driving in the form of pollution and traffic and delays and accidents and health and climate change,” she said.
“We need to make more visible that polluters have to pay for the use of a polluting technology.”
Electric vehicles don’t pollute at source, so should they be exempt from the congestion charge?
“It makes sense to have incentives to switch to fossil-free cars,” agrees Nicholas.
“But we also have to remember that the best car is a bicycle or a bus or a train, or walking or no car at all. We have to prioritize people, not cars.”
Motor vehicles, regardless of how they are powered, have other disadvantages for cities, including a major cause of stress-causing noise and a major cause of trauma and death.
According to Nicholas, car use is also responsible for the “widening gap between rich and poor city residents”.
Cars, she said, were “sometimes necessary for people’s mobility and social inclusion, not least for people with disabilities,” but that “car-centric cities in particular penalize already marginalized cities.”
In the UK, women, the young and the elderly, people from minority communities and the disabled are concentrated in the lowest-income households, 40% of whom have no access to cars. In contrast, nearly 90% of the highest-income households own at least one car.
And it is mainly the wealthier drivers who are driving the increase in the sale of electric cars.
“Despite the slow migration to electric-powered cars, consumer trends are making driving even more wasteful and unequal,” Nicholas says.
“The emissions savings from electric cars have been more than offset by the proliferation of gas-guzzling Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs).”
By building car-free streets and providing protected bicycle paths, car use in city centers has fallen by up to 20%. Other measures in the top 12 include workplace parking charges, car clubs to reduce individual car ownership, and technologies such as transit apps.
After congestion charging, the most effective means of reducing car traffic in the city, according to Nicholas and Kuss, was to remove parking spaces.
“In several European cities, regulations for removing parking spaces and changing traffic routes – in many cases by replacing space previously reserved for cars with car-free streets, cycle paths and footpaths – have proved very successful,” the study said. the couple.
“For example, the replacement of parking spaces by Oslo with pedestrianized pedestrian streets and cycle paths has been found to have reduced car use in the center of the Norwegian capital by as much as 19%.”
In 2014, Nicholas attended a climate protest and went viral on social media with a hand-painted poster that read: “It’s warming. It’s us. We know for sure. It’s bad. We can fix it.”
Originally from Sonoma, California, the world famous grape growing valley, her Ph.D. dealt with the impact of climate change on the wine industry. She has been based in Sweden since 2010.
Her sustainability assignment means that she often focuses on the harmful effects of mass driving.
“The most effective thing we can do to reduce the number of cars in cities is to use carrots and sticks to reduce car use and increase public transport, walking and cycling,” she said.
“But carrots alone aren’t enough to overcome the entrenched infrastructure and incentives that drive car use today. So to really move the needle and get people out of cars and use other modes of transportation – what we need to do to reducing emissions for climate change, protecting public health to make cities and streets safer and more livable – we have to massively reduce car use while increasing sustainable mobility.”
Nicholas would like to find a city that is willing to implement many of the measures she and Kuss have ranked. Combining several measures at the same time could accelerate the results.
“We know from previous research that policy bundles are very effective,” she concludes.