Public transport, walking and cycling in cities are still the most environmentally sustainable mobility options, even with the introduction of electric scooters and car ride-hailing, according to a recent report from the European Environment Agency (EEA).
‘The first and last mile – the key to sustainable urban transport’ report looks at the impact in cities of green and sustainable ‘first and last mile’ mobility options such as bicycles and scooters. It also assesses how innovative inner-city delivery services and modern urban freight can make deliveries more sustainable.
Rail, metro, and bus services usually cover the main bulk of people’s commutes, but users often need to walk, drive or use another method to get to and from the nearest stop or station. With better first and last-mile solutions car usage could fall, resulting in less traffic congestion, fewer emissions and better air quality. Cities can help by creating attractive urban spaces with well-connected infrastructure to make walking and cycling to and from hotspots easier, safer and more enjoyable.
Increasing walking, cycling, and public transport use will be key to meeting the new European Green Deal long-term sustainability aims and policy objectives. Modern technology, such as mobility apps, can help make a good urban mobility system better, but they cannot make up for underdeveloped public transport. Car costs need to reflect the damage done to the environment and health for green options to have a fair chance at competing.
Walking and cycling, in conjunction with public transport, provide the greatest benefit to human health and the environment in urban areas. Benefits from app-based vehicles, such as e-scooters, may not be enough to overcome some of the negative environmental impacts shown in studies. E-scooter sharing schemes seem to attract users that would usually walk or use public transport; whilst the environmental impact of riding one is minimal the materials, manufacturing and frequent collection for recharging can have significant negative effects. Studies have also shown that ride-hailing apps like Lyft and Uber draw people away from public transport, potentially increasing emissions and congestion.
Europe’s transport sector is responsible for one-quarter of greenhouse gas emissions; the sector also produces significant amounts of air pollution from particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide, as well as being the main source of noise pollution. In 2018 transport emissions were 29% above 1990 levels, substantial work is needed to meet the Green Deal proposal of a 90% reduction in transport emissions by 2050.
Some of the other key findings in this study include:
- In 2018 average carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions of new passenger cars increased to 120.4 g CO2 per kilometre;
- Greenhouse gas emissions from aviation increased the quickest out of all transport modes, by an average of 3% each year since 2013;
- The share of renewable energy used in transport rose from 7.4% in 2017 to 8.1% in 2018;
- Over 27% of European people experience transport noise levels of 55 decibels or higher, with 15-20% coming from road traffic noise.
Original article first published 3 February 2020 by EEA
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