"Over the past 80 years we have been building cities for cars much more than for people. If only children had as much public space as cars, most cities in the world would become marvelous… The world's environmental sustainability and quality of life depends to a large extent on what is done during the next few years in the [Developing World’s] 22 mega-cities. There is still time to think different... there could be cities with as much public space for children as for cars, with a backbone of pedestrian streets, sidewalks and parks, supported by public transport.”
Enrique Peñalosa, former Mayor of Bogotá, Colombia
Transport: wheels of misfortune
There is a silent killer plaguing the world’s streets: motorised transport. Every day in the world, 3000 people are killed in road traffic accidents and most of the victims are pedestrians and cyclists, those who are not using motor transport.
Furthermore, air pollution from vehicles is covering the world’s cities in a toxic chemical soup, which is killing thousands more.
And transport is responsible for a quarter of global carbon emissions; carbon dioxide is the main gas responsible for climate change which is likely to force thousands, if not millions, to loose their homes, their livelihoods and even their lives.
And there don’t seem to be many positive spin-offs from our current transport system either: from Los Angeles to Beijing; from Rio to Delhi, thousands of commuters sit in traffic jams becoming ever more frustrated.
And our transport systems have the greatest impact on the worlds poorest who live in poor-quality environments suffering the pollution and noise created by the richest who drive past, cocooned in their cars.
Our expensive and inefficient highway-based transport system has terrible consequences in terms of deaths, injuries, lifetime disability, poor public health and environmental damage. The way we travel, where we travel to, and how often we travel is indeed leaving behind a huge footprint.
So what is a transport footprint?
Put simply, this is the environmental, economic, social and health impacts that result from the way we travel, where we travel to, and how often we travel.
For an entire day, each year, a city bans all cars from its streets. That city is Bogotá, Columbia, which opens up public spaces for all people to walk, cycle and enjoy the city. The Car-Free Day was the inspiration of the former mayor, Enrique Peñalosa who set out to show the benefits of alternative forms of transport to the car, encouraging people to bike and walk.
His efforts met with such support that the city now has an annual Car-Free Day and has agreed to ban all cars from the city during peak hours by the year 2015!
How about supporting a Car-Free Day where you live?
Car-Free Day is now an annual event celebrated in many countries across the world. The next Car-Free Day is 22nd September2009. In the UK and other European countries, Car-Free Day comes at the end of European Mobility Week – held between 16th and 22nd September each year.
This is a week in which sustainable city transport is celebrated and using alternatives to the car are encouraged. The week is a good opportunity for you to encourage your family, school or local authority to carry out activities that raise awareness of the environmental impacts of people’s transport choices and encourage the use of sustainable modes of transport such as walking, cycling and using public transport.
For more details see the European Mobility Week website
How it measures up
- If all the cars in the UK were lined up head to tail they would go twice round the world.
- Six in every ten journeys made by car in the UK are of between just 1 and 2 miles in distance; short journeys are also the most polluting.
- Around 100 bicycles can be produced for the same energy and resources it takes to build one car.
- Many more children would like to cycle: one survey showed that over half of 10 and 11-year-olds would like to cycle to school but only about 1% actually do so.
- Every 18 minutes, a child is killed or injured on UK roads.
- Nine in every 10 people killed in road-traffic accidents are cyclists, pedestrians or bus users in the poorest countries of the world.
- Public transport uses less than half as much fuel per passenger than a private car.
- One return flight from London to New York will generate the carbon dioxide emissions per person equal to driving an average car for 4 months.
Transport and human rights
The World Health Organisation includes transport as a public health issue, and therefore a human rights issue. Many rights to health, safety and security may be denied by inadequate, dangerous or high polluting transpoprt systems and the impacts tend to be greatest among the world’s poorest and most disadvantaged. For example, traffic conditions often make it very difficult for children and the elderly to cross roads. Women with childcare duties find public transport difficult to use and the poor who rely on walking and cycling are exposed to more danger than those travelling in cars.
Some of the rights enshrined under the Convention on the Rights of the Child are threatened by transport. For example, Article 24 highlights the right to a clean and healthy environment, often denied by dangerous and polluting transport. Article 36 highlights the right to be protected from any activities that could harm a child’s development. Again, the noise, pollution and general dangers associated with transport may affect children’s development. Article 32 calls for children to be protected from doing dangerous work. But it is often children in poorer countries that work in very poor conditions in the tourism industry.
For further information on the Convention on the Rights of the Child click here