Over the last few years, our awareness of the impact of carbon emissions has risen sharply. In response, many cities are trying to reduce the use of cars (especially ICE) in inner city areas in favor of pedestrians, cyclists and public transport.
But does such an approach actually have a real difference in air pollution levels? Let’s look at:
What is the problem with cars?
You probably know the statistics, but let’s just do a quick refresh.
According to joint research from Harvard University and various universities in the UK, more than 8 million people died in 2018 from fossil fuel pollution.
In fact, researchers estimate that exposure to particulate matter emissions from fossil fuels accounts for 18% of total global deaths in 2018 – just under one in five.
However, not all emissions are from cars. Industrial production, oil refineries, natural phenomena such as weather, dust storms, fires and agricultural activities contribute to pollution levels.
But 2020 research has revealed this 41% of global transport emissions are from ICE (gas) cars. The older the car, the worse the pollution.
But things are not so simple.
EVs are not perfect
It’s not just ICE’s exhaust fumes that are to blame. In fact, 55% of road traffic pollution comes from particles that are not used by both types of cars. From this, About 20% comes from brake dust that can cause inhalation significant respiratory problems.
Not surprisingly, there is a big push to get cars (and trucks, as far as practical) out of big urban areas with high traffic.
What are some initiatives?
Madrid and London have ultra low emission zonesremoval of most gas-powered vehicles manufactured before 2000 and diesel engines manufactured before 2006 from their centers.
In London, the city charges drivers with high-emission vehicles a fee of $ 15.40 for driving in the area. Again, while electric cars are far better, they are still a problem at high concentrations.
Another approach is to make driving less attractive by restricting parking. In 2016, Oslo removed parking from much of the city, including the city center. The Urban Environment Agency shows that he escaped 4775 parking spacesreplacing most with bike lanes.
Some cities, such as Paris, ban cars on certain days of the week or only on high-pollution days.
Okay, this all sounds pretty good – what’s the problem?
The question is displacement. Unless there is a proper transport infrastructure when moving cars out of cities, we are simply moving the problem elsewhere.
There are some good examples in the UK.
Lives on the perimeter of low emissions
In 2020, the coroner made a legal history of the United Kingdom declaring during an investigation that air pollution was the cause of death of nine-year-old Ella Kisi-Debra.
In particular, her death in February 2013 was caused by acute respiratory failure, severe asthma and exposure to air pollution.
Prof. Stephen Holgate, an immunopharmacologist and respiratory consultant at the University of Southampton, was part of the case. He attributes the worsening of Ella’s asthma to the cumulative effect of the toxic air Ella breathes. Ella lived 30 meters from the Southern Ring Road, which caused her last acute asthma attack.
This map shows where South Circular Road is located. Right on the perimeter of the ultra-low emission zone and next to the highway. Let’s face it, living so close to the highway makes it difficult to deal with pollution.
It is also possible for traffic to increase around the perimeter of cities as people search for free routes.
Some countries like California, in fact, require homes near highways to be equipped with indoor infiltration systems. other cities like Seattlestudy construction as “highway covers” to reduce air pollution and noise.
Park and drive
Another initiative to get cars out of congested cities in the United States and the United Kingdom is park and drive. This is a pretty simple idea. The car parks are located outside the city center by regular buses or trains to the center.
However, this creates more traffic around the local area during peak hours. Especially considering that most people choose to live outside the cities and big cities because it is less congested and built up. Like the perimeter of low-emission zones, pollution simply shifts to that zone and the people who live there.
Is it the solution to expand car-free zones?
Yes and no. In fact, a bunch of different actions are needed.
In London, for example, the local government has identified 12 pollution hotspots that need immediate attention. They have replaced buses in these areas with ones that meet or exceed ULEZ standards.
The city is also investing in expanding its fleet of electric buses and introducing thousands of electric taxis and charging infrastructure.
Other efforts include car-free days and the School Streets program.which closes roads around schools for vehicles during boarding and alighting to encourage walking and cycling.
According to the City of London, it has successfully implemented this in 380 places, which has led to a 97% reduction in schools that exceed the legal limits of pollution.
Don’t forget about trucks and vans
It is equally important to remove as many trucks as possible from the inner city areas.
In other words, fighting pollution is not just about eliminating cars.
A study of Vanarama in 2019 has been established that 520,000 minibus drivers in the UK typically spend more than 20 minutes searching for a parking space for each delivery they make. This results in an hour and 40 minutes of searching for parking each day.
This is a very unnecessary driving and idling.
It is an alternative delivery of cargo bicycles which reduce the need for urban minibuses for short-distance travel.
So air pollution is a complex beast. Cities without cars can help reduce pollution, but thinking that they are everything and the end of everything that makes places safer to live in is wrong.
If we really want to make city centers work for everyone, we need to look at every part of the city – and that’s the outer world.
This is possible – but it will not be easy.