How sustainable are electric bikes?

Sustainability is a huge topic at the moment and people are becoming more and more conscious of the decisions they are making in their day-to-day lives, as well as how they affect the planet. These changing behaviours have also spread as far as the commute, and we are starting to see some great changes in this regard.

 

Transit systems are made up of sensors and actuators – the data produced is apparent in features such as digital signboards, apps and text services that give riders wait times for services.
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Photograph: franckreporter/Getty Images

 

An Electric Bike for a Sustainable Commute

 

A lot of people still choose to drive to work. However, this means that the roads at rush hour are full of cars, often with just one person inside. This problem is reduced in cities, where there are options for public transport such as buses, trains, subways and trams – but people still need to be aware of the CO2 emissions.

The below infographic demonstrates the differences between certain transport methods and the use of an electric bike and the results are staggering.

 

Even with the use of public transport, the average CO2 emissions per person is 89g per km for a bus and 70g per km for a train, and a car is even worse.

Electric bikes are an excellent, sustainable alternative to the daily commute as they help with rush hour traffic by reducing congestion, pollution and noise within cities and towns. They are also favoured by commuters over their conventional counterparts as the motor allows for a speedy commute to work with minimal effort involved, i.e. there is no need for a shower once you arrive at your desk.

 

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What type of cycling city do I want my city to be?

City Visions

Budapest, Hungary

Vision:

Budapest is a liveable, attractive capital city with a unique character and is a respected member of the European network of cities as the innovative economic and cultural centre of the country and the region”. 

Objectives:

The transport system of Budapest should improve the competitiveness of the city and its region and contribute to a sustainable, liveable, attractive and healthy urban environment

  • Liveable urban environment: Transport development, integrated into urban development by influencing transport needs and mode selection, reducing environmental pollution and enhancing equal opportunities
  • Safe, reliable and dynamic transport: The integrated development of transport modes through efficient organisation, stable financing and target-orientated development. 
  • Cooperation in regional connections: the city’s transport system should support regional cooperation and strengthen economic competitiveness

Targets: 

To increase the share of sustainable modes to 80%, and to achieve a 10% share of cycling traffic by 2030

  • Budapest Balázs Mór Plan / Budapest Transport Development Strategy [65% in 2014, 2% cycling modal share in 2018]

Measures:

Improving cycling interoperability; A cyclist-friendly secondary road network; Developing zones with traffic calming and traffic restrictions; More public transport vehicles suitable for carrying bicycles; Operation and development of a public bicycle-sharing system; Extension of cycling services; Active awareness raising

Tallinn, Estonia

Vision / Objective:

To improve the citizens’ quality of life through focussing on health, mobility, safety and the living environment.

Targets:  

  • To increase the share of cycling of all transport modes to 11 % and the rate of children cycling to school up to 25%.
  • To improve the accessibility of the cycling network. By the year 2027, the network should be located up to 500m from at least 75% of the residential houses and 200m from at least 75% of the public buildings.
  • To improve the cycling infrastructure within a 1 km radius of schools in order to increase the safety of children travelling to school.
  • To provide sufficient bicycle parking that meets local demand.
  • To increase the accessibility to the recreational trails) so that 80% of the paths connect the main cycling network at least from one side.

Measures: 

  • Development of a cycle track network.
  • Creating cycle parking spaces around the city and encouraging private organisations/businesses to provide bicycle parking.
  • Construction of public cycle parking in the city.
  • Encouraging private organisations/businesses to provide outdoor and sheltered cycle parking

Supporting Documents:

https://www.tallinn.ee/Summary-of-the-Tallinn-Cycle-Strategy-2018-2027%20

http://www.tallinn.ee/est/g737s107308

Gdańsk, Poland

The city has a strategy called ‘Strategy Gdańsk 2030 Plus’ and mobility is defined as one of its four priorities; “Mobility, and in particular active mobility, can become an important catalyst of a new attitude to the directions and factors of the city’s development”.

The city completed its SUMP plan in summer 2018. It is currently available on the Gdańsk city website: www.gdansk.pl/strategia

Vision:  

Development challenges have been defined, which indicate the inhabitants’ ambitions and aspirations:

  • “Increasing the share of public transport and pedestrian and bicycle traffic in the inhabitants’ travels”.

Objectives:

An operational programme supports the strategy by defining actions that are to be implemented in Gdańsk, focusing on 2023 time horizon.  Objectives include

  • Improving the conditions for pedestrian and bicycle traffic.
  • Increasing the attractiveness of public transport.
  • Improving transport accessibility, within the city and between Gdańsk and other destinations
  • Promoting sustainable transport and active mobility

Measures:  

A selection of cycling related measures that have been listed in the operational programme (2023) include:

  • Construction of bicycle paths in accordance with the Bicycle Path System in Gdańsk, including high-speed bicycle paths according to the standards of the European Cyclists’ Federation
  • Creating new pedestrian and bicycle zone and extending the existing ones.
  • Modernization and repair of pavements, bicycle paths, and pedestrian and bicycle areas
  • Expansion of parking infrastructure for bicycles, including creating safe and functional bicycle parking places at interchanges.
  • Creating a metropolitan public bicycle system.
  • Implementation of projects to encourage employers to create conditions favourable for employees to commute by bicycle to work.

The complete Operational Programme, 2020, can be found here: https://www.gdansk.pl/download/2016-08/77137.pdf

Malmö, Sweden

Vision:

(From the SUMP)

Walking, cycling and public transport are the first choice for all who work, live or visit in Malmö. These travel choices, together with efficient and environmentally friendly freight and car traffic, are the basis of the transport system in our dense and sustainable city – a transport system designed for the city, and for its people.”

Objectives: 

A more accessible and attractive Malmö for more people. […] Malmö is to become a socially, environmentally and economically sustainable city to visit, live and work in.

  • A denser city – higher concentration of people and functions in a growing city.
  • An integrated city – providing service functions in a denser city
  • A city with short distances – an accessible city for more people bridging barriers between different urban zones socially and physically
  • A greener city for recreational purposes and pollution mitigation

Targets: 

  • To increase cycling modal share for inhabitants from 22 % in 2013 to 22 % in 2020. To increase public transport modal share for inhabitants from 21 % in 2013 to 25% in 2020.
  • To increase cycling modal share for commuting to Malmö from 3 % in 2013 to 5 % in 2020. To increase public transport modal share for commuting to Malmö from 33 % in 2013 to 45 % in 2020.

Measures:

(From the local cycling strategy 2012-2019)

  • Strengthen Malmö’s profile as a cycling city (including campaigns, actions for different target groups like companies and schools; maps; apps and the bicycle sharing system)
  • Measures to increase safety and comfort (lighting, road service, surface materials, symbols, restrictions to cars or mopeds)
  • Larger infrastructural measures (cycling network classification, improvement of infrastructure, new cycling lanes, contra-flow lanes, cycling adapted roads, signposting)
  • Small infrastructural measures (green light timing at traffic lights, cycling boxes and pumps, wind protection, handles)
  • Actions for improved parking (Bike and Ride, parking at large transport hubs, e-charging points, event parking)

Supporting documents:  

Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan – creating a more accessible Malmö, published 2016

Cycling programme for Malmö 2012-2019

Repost from https://ec.europa.eu/transport/

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How does a city get to be ‘smart’? This is how Tel Aviv did it

Smart cities, digital cities, virtual cities, connected cities. Are these just trendy buzzwords? Perhaps. But these types of cities are supported by infrastructure that is more than bricks and mortar.

These cities are smart (thoughtful, people-centric), digital (driven by data acquisition, measured, analysed and sometimes exchanged) and virtual (experiential). And, as a result, they are connected, creating more potential interactions between people and their place.

Tel Aviv is one of these cities. Undoubtedly the 2009 book Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle contributed to its reputation as a “non-stop city” with innovation clusters teeming with companies at the cutting edge of technology.

However, Tel Aviv’s standing is not only built on commercial success — it has an internationally recognised local government. Winning first place in the 2014 World Smart City Awards not only boosted its profile on the international stage, but Tel Avivians, well, they actually have positive things to say about their local government.

A city that decided to change

 

This was not always the case. Municipal leaders had to do something to change how the community perceived them.

In 2011, the municipality organised focus groups with residents, heard their complaints and listened to what they said they needed. The municipality realised it needed to change the way it engaged with citizens. A cultural shift was needed, an internal one, to deliver an intelligent and active municipality.

Tel Aviv, like Detroit, is an urban laboratory; a test-bed for city projects that combine public and private efforts, startups and university centres. As Israel’s leading business centre, its main priorities are supporting high-tech companies and startups. Located in a geopolitically contentious region, challenges faced by Tel Aviv residents over the years have also driven a new wave of urban administration — emphasising transparency, trust and local government led by residents.

Club. DigiTel card holders have access to a personalised web and mobile platform that provides residents with individually tailored, location-specific services delivered via email, text messages and personal resident accounts.

It’s the brainchild of Zohar Sharon, chief knowledge officer of Tel Aviv Municipality. In a recent interview, he told me: “As a result of what we learned from the focus groups and unique knowledge-management processes in the municipality, we now have over 200 municipality staff from different departments, called knowledge champions, who feed data into the DigiTel platform.”

A beach kiosk where DigiTel users can hire umbrellas, chairs and lounges at discounted rates. Christine Steinmetz, Author provided

 

Daily updates inform residents about: road closures in their area, registering for school, local events, development or heritage conservation proposals requiring feedback, community greening initiatives, recycling, and invitations to public surveys. The card also gives residents access to discounted rentals of beach equipment, theatre and movie tickets, car-share rentals, and a variety of other services.

DigiTel isn’t just one-way communication. Users tell the municipality what is happening in their area. They can feed back information about, for example, broken city signage or playground fixtures needing attention.

The municipality sees the community members as having “wisdom”: they are the most informed about what is happening in their local area.

Since starting as a pilot in 2013 the DigiTel Residents Club has spread citywide. It has almost 200,000 registered users (who must be aged 13 or older) – over 60% of the eligible population.

We must understand that when we are talking about ‘smart cities’ we must think first about the city’s residents and how we can use smart tools to improve their quality of life. The local municipality must adopt a citizens-centric approach and deliver by push-tailored information and services to citizens, implementing a holistic approach, breaking silos and thinking about citizens’ actual needs.

Today, because of our practice, we can see a tremendous change in the participation of residents in various community activities, greater involvement in city life and greater satisfaction from Tel Aviv municipal services.

  • – Sharon

The platform has expanded to include Digi-Dog for dog owners and Digi-Tuf (tuf meaning young children in Hebrew) for parents of children up to the age of three.

In India, Thane – one of the cities included in the Smart City Mission announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2015 – has launched DigiThane, with help from Sharon.

What can other cities learn from this?

To be a smart city is to know your people, know what they want, and know what they need. And you know what they need because they told you.

Many councils throughout Australia are under pressure to have a smart city strategy. Perhaps the way to become smart is to start small. This may not require reinventing the wheel, but really just sitting down and listening to what people need and figuring out how to deliver in the most economical and sustainable way.

As Sharon says:

We didn’t create the technology — it was already being used by the commercial sector — we just adapted the technology to make it work for the public sector.

Author:

Christine Steinmetz

Senior Lecturer in Built Environment, UNSW

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