By Christopher Juniper
Recent studies of our economic future with, and without, serious action on climate change generally find huge economic advantages from strong action sooner than later. The actions need concern both existing transport systems and buildings, but especially the expected $90 trillion of infrastructure development between now and 2030 that will set up economies to be low- or high-greenhouse gas (GHG) intensity, according to the Global Commission on Climate and Economy’s extensive study, “Unlocking the Inclusive Growth Story…” at https://newclimateeconomy.report/2018/wp-content/uploads/sites/6/2018/09/NCE_2018_FULL-REPORT.pdf.
The transport sector will remain among the stubbornest economic sectors for achieving low GHG intensity for several obvious reasons, especially regarding air travel. This makes whole-system planning that involves extraordinarily energy- and climate-efficient advanced transit more important than ever for both our economic health, and humanity’s health.
Only electric bicycles or variations such as small scooters can rival advanced transit systems for carbon-efficiency. When combined, they will be the most climate-friendly options available.
An ideal grid approach for an existing or new city would have advanced transit available no more than about a one-quarter-mile distance from residences or government/commercial buildings, capturing large segments of travelers without a “last-mile” problem. However, the new internet-based electric scooter systems being deployed already in 65 US cities represent a new, highly-efficient technology (as much as 80 miles per kilowatt-hour)that may assist riders to reach advanced transit stations without adding to traffic congestion.
A new report by the City of Portland OR (USA) is among the first to explore the implications of electric scooters; it’s available at: https://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/78431
The city conducted a four-month E-scooter experiment; the ~2000 scooters were used for ~700,000 trips totaling ~800,000 miles. Thirty-four percent of Portland riders and 48% of visitors reported they substituted the e-scooter for a personal car, whether owned or through ride-hailing systems. Scooter-related emergency room or urgent care clinic visits totaled 176, of which 83% were a fall rather than a collision.
In my opinion, cities or industrial/govt. complexes where many trips are less than 5 miles should be planning safe, separate right-of-way systems for highly efficient, light-weight vehicles like electric bikes or scooters, so they are not unsafely mingling with either pedestrians or large motor vehicles. Such systems could be integrated into advanced transit systems to both provide sustainable energy for the battery charging systems (provided by the advanced transit’s solar/wind infrastructure) and maximally convenient connectivity.
We’ll be appropriately serious about climate change when such systems become the norm.
Levi Tillemann and Lassor Feasley, “Let’s Count the Ways E-scooters Could Save the City,” Wired, 7 Dec. 2018, at: https://www.wired.com/story/e-scooter-micromobility-infographics-cost-emissions/