COP27 is currently happening in Egypt, this year’s theme is Youth and Future Generations. While the last COP held in Glasgow had a day dedicated to sustainable transport, this year does not. Instead it is one of the topics to be discussed on solutions day.
While there is no dedicated day for transport PATH (Partnership for Active Travel and Health) has put together a report. In it they note that over 60% of urban trips are under 5km, and 25% are under 1km. However, 50% of those trips are made with cars, 30% of the world’s urban journeys involve unnecessary car travel. Less than a third of short trips are walked or cycled.
It gets even worse though. By including electric bikes active travel could be used for up to 75% of all urban trips worldwide. This would leave only the longest of urban trips to polluting vehicles like cars.
It’s all very nice to say 75% of trips can be made on an electric bike though. What we really need is to make it doable for people within our urban centres. To do that means that we need more action from governments around the world. Not simply pledges, but measurable action.
PATH wants to establish safer cities with improved active transport infrastructure. This will enable people to walk and cycle safely, and importantly help them to feel safe. That bears special mention because whether safe or not, people not feeling safe on a bike is enough to stop them cycling.
This isn’t the first time we’ve talked about cycling infrastructure. So, we won’t begin to list all of the improvements that can be made. What is worth mentioning again though is that cycling and walking can be viable alternatives to cars. This is especially true of electric bikes which sacrifice less speed while making the trip easier across longer distances.
Active transport enjoys a unique position in preventing climate change. It is able to be rolled out quickly and at a relatively low cost. By making it easier for people to engage in active transport through segregated bikes lanes and more bike racks, we remove cars. This can have a domino effect. When one of the reasons that people don’t engage in active transport is not feeling safe in traffic, less cars means people feel safer.
One of the things we need to do most is change how young and future generations see cycling. Not just as a hobby, or something for lycra clad adults to get around. But rather as a mode of transport for everyone. A first choice for short trips. We can do this through cycle clubs and programs to provide bikes to the young. Simply by teaching them that cycling is a good way to get from A to B and teaching them to be confident in their cycling abilities.
COP27 does not have a day dedicated to transport, we don’t yet know how the discussion on solutions day will go. What we do know is that active travel, in all of its forms, allows for the quick wins we need. If we’re serious about minimising climate change we need to take these quick wins. We can remove a significant portion of the emissions created from transport by embracing active travel.