Source: Bike Boom
As reported in the Guardian by Tim Burns, the switch from diesel and gas vehicles is vastly overrated. Sure, there will be an increase in air quality but think of this: the only thing you are changing is the fuel source  of  “the type of heavy box” that people travel around in and insist on bringing to city streets. And that is where the opportunity is-we can all reduce air pollution even more, and change the way streets and public ways are used by two simple things-encouraging more people to ride bikes, and encouraging people to walk for short, convenient trips.
As Burns notes “In 2015, only 2% of trips in England were made by bicycle despite the average length of each trip being only seven miles. Switching from cars to bikes would not only reduce air pollution but solve many of the biggest issues facing our cities and towns.”
We’ve all seen that neat little graphic showing that a 3.5 meter wide single lane “can transport 2,000 people an hour in cars, the same lane can be used to transport 14,000 people on bicycles – and this doesn’t even take into account the space saved on parking. With limited space in cities and rising populations, transport planning has to focus on the most efficient way of getting around.”  And that includes pedestrians walking too.
While changing from diesel to electric vehicles will help with asthma and air pollution related deaths, driving those vehicles does not promote greater physical fitness. Biking is a gold standard for physical activity. Switching from diesel to electric vehicles will help reduce early deaths associated with air pollution but  it will do little to encourage greater physical activity, so necessary for healthy, happy  citizens.  “Research from the University of Glasgow recently found cycling regularly reduced the incidence of cancer by 45%, heart disease by 46%, and of death by any cause by 41%.”
“Sir Liam Donaldson, the former chief medical officer for England once said: “The potential benefits of physical activity to health are huge. If a medication existed which had a similar effect, it would be regarded as a wonder drug or miracle cure.” And it’s good for society too – Transport for London calculated that if all Londoners walked or cycled for 20 minutes a day this would save £1.7bn in National Health Service treatment costs over 25 years in the capital alone.”
While cities are touting banning diesel and gasoline vehicles in favour of electric, there is a huge opportunity to create the type of  walking and cycling infrastructure that is supportive of enhancing the health of communities, the gold standard for livability. Let’s remember to create cities and streets for people, not just vehicles in this move from diesel and gas to electric.
Source: Greencarreports


  1. The article does touch on the outrageous urban geometry of car infrastructure along with emissions. One point missed was the potential to erode fossil fuel dependency in transportation with both electric cars and bikes (and transit). Big Oil’s funding of climate change denial is starting to backfire.

  2. This applies to autonomous vehicles as well. A lot of people seem to view them as some sort of panacea, but they take up just as much space on the roads, are just as likely to be used by single occupants, and if the concept of hailing instead of owning takes hold then they’ll all spend a lot more time on the roads driving to their next fare. You can imagine how much more congestion there could be if we have all the existing occupied vehicles and add almost as many empty vehicles deadheading to their next trip.

    1. No, autonomous vehicles will cut congestion dramatically. If you can go from ~2%? utilization to 30% – that would be huge. Sure, getting rid of cars is better can’t disagree with that.

      1. Utilization is irrelevant. Better utilization just means that there will be fewer parked cars – that’ll ease parking congestion but that’s not what I was talking about.
        If you cut the total number of cars to only 1/3 of what there were before, but if those fewer cars are better utilized so that they’re making the same number of trips, then there’s going to be the same number of cars actually on the road and so congestion is going to be just as bad.
        But after having dropped off the early commuters those autonomous cars are going to head back out to residences in the city and in the suburbs to pick up the next wave. And the next wave after that. That’s exactly why the utilization goes up. So in addition to all the inbound traffic you’re also going to be adding outbound traffic. That’s going to add more delays at intersections where cars have to wait to turn, it’ll play havoc with traffic control which optimizes for flow in one direction, and so on. And of course the reverse applies for the evening rush hour.
        The only way automation will reduce road congestion is if (a) benefits from platooning outweigh the many extra vehicles making both loaded and empty trips (and that can’t happen until there are a lot more autonomous vehicles than manually driven ones), (b) some magical property of autonomous vehicles encourages more ride sharing (for which I’ve seen zero evidence), or (c) autonomous vehicles are either so expensive to hail or autonomous transit becomes so cheap to use that the economics motivate a significant number people to mode shift.

    2. What’s worse than a SOV (single occupied vehicle) ?
      A ZOV !! [ zero occupied vehicle in AV mode ]
      In theory you should be able to use AVs “soon” .. but after the lawyers & timid politicians & police force & insurance firms have vetted the car features AND have allowed it .. in reality more like 2040 at best .. we don’t even have Uber yet !
      So technically TODAY .. but in real world I’d be very surprised if we have AV before 2040 !!! .. VERY SURPRISED ..

      1. ZOV is a good point. However I think the utilization factor will be an order of magnitude more material though. Remember the AV does not have to deadhead all the way back to start, but just to the next customer. Think of Manhattan NY first vs. suburbia US. I think you will be surprised. My bet is between 2022. Bob Miller

        1. Likely not before 2050 due to complexities, wait times and regulations re pickup curbside.
          Maybe Car2Go like zones where you can pick up AVs that drive you somewhere but there are far too many complexities in a city to be fully automated.
          Uber not here today due to legal and union and license plate fee issues. AVs far far more complex. Give it AT LEAST 2-3 more decades.
          Like comparing cell phones of the 1980s and today’s smart phones .. a 30+ year period of constant improvements .. squared.

  3. Obviously the political/lobbyist roadblocks to Uber in Vancouver are not analogous to the continuing technical advances associated with autonomous cars around the world, or the legislative concerns surrounding safety. If autonomous vehicles deliver even a fraction of their purported benefits, regulators will be happy to accommodate the necessary legislative changes.

      1. I have no problem with four or five-storey projects with continuous sidewalk retail on arterials. Living in a tower is not my cuppa, but I have lived in everything up to seven stories.
        That’s the long way of saying yes.

        1. But would you want one of those multistory buildings behind your house? That’s where the opposition arises.

  4. There will need to be a substantial number of AVs to cause commuters to use them.
    Once these AVs have delivered their commuters to the city centre, where they all go?
    The owners of the AVs will then cruise, or park, the vehicles waiting for the next paying rider. If the AVs are cruising, they will be doing so at a the slowest speed possible, so as to not use fuel and wear-and-tear on the vehicle. The congestion will be fun to behold.
    Imagine hundreds of AVs slowly cruising around Stanley Park, waiting for a call to take someone back to the burbs.
    Cities may well welcome the AV but the transformation will be fraught with issues.

    1. You bet. However, if cities will charge by km by then, the AV use will be curbed. It will be interesting to see how this jives with public transit as the biggest AV owner fleet might beTranslink, as in off hours that may make far more sense than an empty bus every 1/2 h. I can see the unions throwing mud at this already. Like Car2Go and Evo today AVs will have their share of rides but the individually owned car will not go away, just like today some folks rent and some own. Some form of AV mode will be common, like NAV systems or backup cameras today that were a rarity even 10 years ago and today are standard in most cars.
      AV will come in various modes, from foot off, to hands off, to eyes off, to brain off, to person off, gradually, in stages! My hybrid with a follow car feature and/or speed control essential is one form of AV: it switches from gas to electric automatically, it sits at 100 km/h automatically even on hills, and it keeps a distance to car in front even in a traffic jam. It is essentially three AV features although it does not yet drive me to Kelowna to an address .. yet. For it to then pick up rides for cash in Kelowna while I sit on the beach, or drive me drunk back to the hotel is an even bigger step.

      1. I haven’t see an empty bus in years that didn’t say, ‘Sorry not in service’. But I don’t live in the suburbs where they may exist. If AVs become that popular, then they may be more common at the periphery than the centre.

  5. I have a feeling that any successful AV system system will follow the bike share business model. Cars will sit parked and charging in depots until they are needed, just like a Mobi station. The only difference being that the car will dispatch itself to pick you up from the nearest depot. The only empty AVs on the road will be those balancing demand, cars will move themselves to those depots that are experiencing high demand. This will be a heuristic algorithm that takes into account time of day and whether or not it’s a working day, as well as learning on the fly. The nice thing is that the AV depots can balance themselves, rather than using trucks and people, as Mobi does. It’s Modo on steroids.

    1. Quite possibly.
      But that means we will NOT see less cars on the roads, likely even more, although the # of cars in total will drop. The whole pickup on curb will be regulated and as such may not be as easy as you see it, i.e. like Car2Go today you still have to walk to car and get in. Or only certain AV enabled curbside pickup spots as it is far too complex to accommodate even 3 people being picked up at a busy spot, say a hotel entrance, after a theatre (or worse, a hockey game) visit, when university ends classes etc .. can you imagine 20 people standing on the curb all waiting for their car ? Or 200 ?
      More common will be ever more sophisticated AV features of privately owned and shared vehicles, ie. Car2Go offer an AV mode as does your private BMW or Lexus or GreenCabs or Translink’s new AV fleet. So after you get in, you type in or yell out your address like in a cab today, and it just drives there and drops you nearby.
      Only one of the AV features is the ZOV mode. There will be many nuances of “AV” !

  6. These AVs are going to have to be cheap to ride in. A new car costs around $15 a day, including gas and insurance.
    Door to door from the suburbs AVs will have to come in at less than $10 each way. Is a commercial operator, or a subsidised one such as TransLink, able to meet that price?

      1. Car2Go currently ranges from $0.32 – $0.45 a minute. Evo $0.41. Please fact check these easily researched pieces of information before posting so as not to spread erroneous impressions.

        1. I use Car2Go a lot and as such I know the exact prices too my (young?) friend. No need to lecture folks. I used a range to give an indication as with higher AV or shared vehicle volume come lower prices, but also higher end options .. and as such I used 25-50 cents as a heuristic range.
          Heuristics matter !! Especially when one predicts the future from the present. it is not science.

        2. Incorrect information equals erroneous assumptions. You claimed higher prices would be coming in your previous comment also. Faulty assumptions based on off-the-cuff numbers is the pattern I see. I corrected the information presented. If you would prefer your comments to go unremarked, presenting the right information would seem to the solution over age-ist remarks and complaints about being lectured to.

        3. The future is speculative. 25-50 cents a good range to use.
          I prefer heuristics over academic precision.

        4. Erroneous information was presented. It was corrected — with an exercise about as ‘academic’ as using Google to figure out what time a movie is playing. That is all.

  7. To be blunt, this post is why “urbanists” get discredited in the eyes of the masses. A desire for cleaner air gets mixed up with the relentless hate-on for cars. A bicycle commute is not practical for many and never will be. Anyone who bikes from Surrey to downtown is an outlier, not a realistic goal. Society cannot afford great transit to every possible job/home combo, especially under the Liveable Region Strategy. Posts like this merely reinforce the technocratic nanny state image which North Americans will continue to reject. If it is clean air you are really interested in, you would do better to welcome and aid the coming of the electric car.
    Bikes and walking can handle short distance commutes, transit can handle denser popular pairing and electric cars can do everything else.

    1. The better a city is planned with medium or higher density mixed-use the fewer people need cars. Urbanists don’t have a hate on for cars. They have strong concerns about an outdated planning model that has given too many people no other choice but to drive.
      This has all been explained to you ad nauseum, but you continue to spout your straw man as if it were for real.
      We could eliminate 1/2 of the cars on the road and 3/4 of the total fleet and nobody would suffer. If it’s done right.

      1. People with kids fleeing to the suburbs by the tens of thousands in their mini-vans might disagree here. Not really an option if you look at Delta, Surrey, Richmond, W- Van and N Van layout. Where are the LRTs or subways to get me from UBC to N Van, Surrey or Richmond’s outer edges in 3/4 h ?
        Talked to a (well earning) prof just yesterday and he lives in Richmond and a car is the only realistic option to get to UBC. Why do we allow towers in UEL, soon Jericho lands, Granville Street or N Van to pop up with tens of thousands of condos yet ZERO rapid transit anywhere near ? We honestly expect folks that buy a $1.5M to $2M condo to take the bus along Granville, from upper Lonsdale or from No 1 Rd in Richmond ?

        1. Exactly Thomas – you are agreeing with me. The suburbs have been built with the outdated planning model that is car-dependent. Good urban design works in the suburbs too. Sprawl is expensive. It costs more per capita to build, service and maintain. It requires a car or two or three per family. Higher density is cheaper and can be very family friendly. It’s not all about highrises.
          We’ve seen how people and families can get around Vancouver easily with minimal car use – even in the less dense areas of Strathcona, Mount Pleasant, Fairview etc.
          No reason at all the suburbs can’t learn from that. But you need the mixed-use density or a firm plan to get there before you can provide excellent transit.
          You can’t justify expensive transit to sprawling suburbs.

        2. Yet, we build new towers everywhere and NO SUBWAY (or LRT) .. see N van, Richmond (along River for example .. away from CanadaLine), or along Granville Street, Surrey, UBC, soon Jericho land .. and then wonder: oops, there are traffic jams .. cities approve urban growth but pass the buck to feds and province to fund transit or road widening and say “not our fault” ..
          Who is addressing this mis-match of urban planning and $s for transit ?

        3. People with kids fleeing to the suburbs by the tens of thousands in their mini-vans …
          You might need to adjust that narrative, Thomas. Fully 28% of the population are now one-person households. Another 26% are couples without kids. And another 9% are single parents. A growing number of the first two categories are seniors, and all have housing needs that differ from the standard detached home on open land. Moreover, the growth rate of people living without children is larger than those with. This reflects the ageing population, divorces and separations, and empty nesters who will seriously consider downsizing their households before too long.
          With almost 2/3rds of the population not conforming to the ubiquitous suburban dream, why aren’t we building more infill, gentle density and Missing Middle along with better transit? It’s not like the demand isn’t there.

      2. Ron, as you should know many immigrants come to North America specifically because it allows them to enjoy a house of their own, rather than being crammed into stacked boxes. It is a goal most immigrant families aspire to.
        However too many here continue to flog the notion that everyone must live in some cramped box with no yard of their own. Let’s be honest, for most buyers a condo is a compromise, not their heart’s desire. If electric cars help people find a housing type they desire at a reasonable price, more power to them (pun intended). Contrary to the view pushed here, most suburbanites willingly make the trade-off between commute time and housing type. Nobody is forcing them into it.

        1. Because they do not pay the true cost. Urbanites subsidize them And because those who grew up in North America know little else.
          We’ve been spoon fed the notion that if you don’t own a house with a picket fence and you ride the bus you’re a loser and failing your kids. There are powerful interests that ensure that meme continues. Europe is not full of losers. Their cities are wonderful vibrant places with a small proportion of single family homes. If they come here for lifestyle it’s much more likely to be in the hinterlands than in the suburbs.

        2. Are you sure about that Ron?
          “In many countries, single-family homes (SFH) constitute the majority of residential buildings. In Germany 66 % of the residential building stock is made up by SFH. SFH are traditionally in great demand, and in 2011, more than 50 % of the population in Europe lived in SFH..”

        3. Unlike in North America, in European countries many many more people live in villages in which single family homes are more appropriate. These villages are small, walkable and surprisingly vibrant for their size. They are nothing like most North American small towns which are dull and where culture revolves around a Timmy’s or some diner.
          In Europe the villages are everywhere. Thousands and thousands of them. Hence large portions of a country’s population may still live in single family homes. But they’d be mostly tightly clustered around a centre and easy to serve with regular bus service or even rail to a larger centre.
          But I’m talking about cities.
          European cities are predominantly dense and mixed use and have a very small land base devoted to SFH. People in European cities rarely live in houses. The suburbs didn’t happened in Europe to the extent it did here. I seriously doubt many Europeans would be drawn to them here.

        4. Of course SFH owners pay the true cost – namely directly through high property taxes and indirectly through higher GST, higher PST and/or higher income taxes.
          The issue is that if one wants to reduce housing costs one needs to build more livable area per sq ft of land.
          Where land is cheap, say in small towns or rural regions people live in houses sub $150,000 or mobile homes at sub $125,000/unit new, or used often under $25,000. Only once land gets expensive, such as Lower Mainland, then one needs to stack people up.
          deleted as per editorial policy. Please read policy
          Perhaps with AVs people will drive even further out to the burbs as they can sleep, blog, read the newspaper or facebook as the car drives. Thus, the desire to own a SF house is NOT going away.

    2. @ Bob:
      Bikes and walking can handle short distance commutes, transit can handle denser popular pairing and electric cars can do everything else.
      Despite the 10 contrarian lines above it, that statement actually dovetails very well with many of the urbanist views expressed here. Are you a closet hippy planner, Bob?

    3. Bob, it doesn’t take urbanist nerdiness or extreme athleticism to bike from Surrey to downtown. You bike to train, train takes you to downtown. Walk from downtown train station or use bike share. It’s done in cities around the world. The reason why not more do this type of commuting in Metro Vancouver is the lack of safe bike routes and infrequent, slow transit (especially outside Vancouver and Burnaby).

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