December 5, 2016

Diesel becomes a Dinosaur in Four Cities


The C40 Mayors Summit has just finished in Mexico City and incoming Chair of the C40, Mayor of Paris Anne Hildalgo has announced a remarkable policy-four world cities, all known for their sometimes questionable air quality have committed to banning  all diesel vehicles in their municipalities by 2025. Following Tokyo’s lead the mayors of Paris, Mexico City, Madrid and Athens stated that they would promote walking and biking, and incentivize the use of  other technologies in vehicles.
In Europe where gasoline is expensive, diesel can be a more cost-effective alternative for running vehicles. But with the World Health Organization attributing three million deaths a year to outdoor pollution exposure,  diesel engines have been pinpointed as a particular problem.

As the BBC notes: “Diesel engines contribute to the problem in two key ways – through the production of particulate matter (PM) and nitrogen oxides (NOx). Very fine soot PM can penetrate the lungs and can contribute to cardiovascular illness and death. Nitrogen oxides can help form ground level ozone and this can exacerbate breathing difficulties, even for people without a history of respiratory problems”.

These types of changes will mean that car makers will need to adapt to new regulations, and look for alternative ways to power vehicles. The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan is considering expanding an innovative Ultra-Low Emission Zone in London’s centre. And the Mayor of Mexico City states:: “It is no secret that in Mexico City, we grapple with the twin problems of air pollution and traffic”.

The banning of diesel vehicles and the promotion of active transportation and connected transit routes promises to rewrite what a legible city looks and feels like. Paris has already undertaken a regulatory ban on vehicles registered before 1997 from even entering the city,  and has embraced the closing of the Champs-Elysee to vehicular traffic one day a month.  Price Tags has also written about  a three kilometer section of the right bank of the Seine, once a throughway for motor cars becoming a walkers’ paradise, despite the fury of commuting traffic.

Eliminating diesel engine use is a direct approach to addressing the health of the city. Will Metro Vancouver follow?

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As reported by the CBC and others the City of Paris is doing a remarkable thing in permanently closing the Right Bank to car traffic, turning it into a pedestrian and cycling paradise. The road along the Right Bank has been in Paris’ downtown since the 1960’s and worked perfectly for what it was designed to do-move commuting traffic. But Paris has an air pollution problem-living in Paris means your life expectancy is reduced by 2 years,  and  air pollution claims 6,500 people.

While the Right Bank has been closed since the early 2000’s into a beach experience each summer, it reverted to its car dominated use in the Fall. Now Mayor Hidalgo, who also is the head and chair of the C40 Cities addressing climate change, has spearheaded a movement which has passed to permanently close the Right Bank road.

Since vehicles regularly commuted on this route prior to the closure, there is a bit  of pushback from those motorists. Before making way for the beach this summer, an estimated 43,000 cars drove the quay highway daily. Suburban commuters, taxi drivers and Uber are bitterly against the closure.

But Eric Britton, a sustainable development consultant looks to Copenhagen and the remarkable work that has been done to make that city into a biking and walking haven. He states”You see, congestion is also a policy. It’s a very valuable policy. Traffic is people, and people are smart, and they figure out other ways to get around.”

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Pictures of the self-driving free bus that runs around the Confluence district in Lyon…

It putters along the quiet roadway at a speed slightly faster than a wheelchair, making just one turn, and occasionally slamming on its brakes if a pedestrian ambles into its path…

… and has a minder, who also keeps statistics of the passengers. Confluence is the former industrial district in Lyon on the narrow strip of land where the Rhone and Saone rivers meet. It’s rather suburban or “office park” compared with other places in Lyon, and has some dramatic buildings…

Lyon itself is quite flat, with the exception of the Croix-Russes district on the north bank of the Saone, and is dotted with docking stations for the public bike-rent system (Confluence is at the bottom left of the map) …

In Paris, we walked the Promenade Plantée, also known as the Coulée Verte, from Bastille all the way southeasterly to the Bois de Vincennes, about 5 km. Inaugurated in 1993, it is much older and much less well-known than NYC’s HighLine, but an incredible respite from the noise and bustle of Parisian streets…

French towns and cities are still wrestling, if that’s the right word, with the problem of dog shit all over the streets …

… but Paris is much cleaner than it used to be. “Le slalom sur les crottes” is fading into memory.

…and Uber is trying to lure people out of the crowded Metro with the promise, ha ha, that they can smoothly make their way through the uncrowded Paris streets. Ads like this were posted in many Metro stations.
One final shot (only the French would do this, peut-être?) – the terminus of the RER at Paris-CDG. The functioning escalator is descending, forcing passengers to haul their bags up the staircase!

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An update from Paris, via The Guardian:

Paris mayor heralds ‘reconquest of Seine’ as riverbank traffic banned
Paris city council has approved the banning of all vehicles from the major road running along the right bank of the river Seine in a bitterly contested vote.

Mayor Anne Hidalgo hailed what she called a historic decision that meant the “end of the urban motorway in Paris and the reconquest of the Seine”.
Before it closed earlier this year for the annual Paris Plage city beach project, 43,000 cars a day passed over the stretch of road. It will eventually be replaced by gardens, parks, restaurants and cafes.

The city council insists the closure is “definitive”. However, it still needs the approval of the police authority, which has the final word on traffic matters in the capital. …
Motorist groups vehemently opposed both left and right bank road closures, accusing the city’s socialist administration of a vendetta against drivers. Read more »

Alarmists keep predicting massive traffic failure and gridlock whenever a significant step is taken to reverse Motordom – most  recently in Paris where, on September 25, the Right Bank quais were closed to traffic.
Doug Clarke passes this along from Le Monde, in a translated version:

Revealed by The Sunday newspaper (JDD) of 25 September, the first figures measuring the traffic in the heart of the capital, three weeks after the end of Paris Plages and the non-reopening to traffic lanes on shore banks right, turn out less alarmist than forecast.
While the decision to approve the pedestrianization of the Georges Pompidou road tunnel between the Tuileries (1st district) and the port of the Arsenal (12th) will be submitted to vote of the Council of Paris, Monday 26 September, these observations are a surprise to the mayor (Socialist Party, PS) of the city, Anne Hidalgo, who will face a rising opposition strongly against this project. …
… it appears that a significant number of motorists have already integrated measurement and have adapted by changing the route or mode of transportation. …
In the end, Anne Hidalgo assured, on RTL, the pedestrianization of the banks had already resulted in “decreases in circulation,” called the evaporation of the movement-, of the order of 10% “.

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From The Guardian:

It is 8.30am on a weekday rush hour and the Voie Georges-Pompidou along the right bank of the Seine, normally one of the busiest highways in Paris, is eerily quiet.

Around 43,000 vehicles a day used this expressway, built in 1967, to cross central Paris from west to east, but they are nowhere to be seen. Instead, teams of workers are there, planning playgrounds, wooden terraces, waterside gardens restaurants and rectangular terrains for playing boules.
The drone from traffic on the parallel Quai des Celestins, higher up the river bank, suggests traffic there is moving along at a respectable pace – confounding those doomsayers who suggested the controversial scheme to pedestrianise two miles of city centre highway would bring neighbouring roads to a standstill.
While this section of the Seine closes every summer to host the Paris Plages – in which temporary artificial beaches are created along the right bank of the river – this time the expressway has not been reopened.
Instead Paris’s prefect of police – the state representative – this week approved the closure of the riverside route for a six-month trial. Socialist-run city hall says it intends to keep the highway closed to vehicles for good. …
Few issues have so bitterly divided Parisians than the closure of Voie Georges-Pompidou. The move, one of the pillars of Hidalgo’s 2014 election campaign, has pitted city hall against the regional council, right against left, motorists against pedestrians, in increasingly bad tempered exchanges. …
Christophe Najdovski, Paris deputy mayor responsible for transport and public spaces, and a member of the Ecology Green party, said the new project is all about changing attitudes. “The first few weeks will be difficult and then it will become normal. As we have seen with this type of project across the whole world, including places like New York and Rio, is that when an urban highway is transformed or closed, there is an evaporation of traffic. Either people modify their route, or they use their car less and take other forms of transport. “Behaviour will change. Habits will change. And our objective, to reduce traffic and thus pollution, will be achieved.”
Najdovski added: “We have done all studies necessary for this project and we’re convinced that after six months, a year, everything will be fine and nobody will be talking about this any more. That’s what happened with the right bank three years ago.
But Pierre Chasseray of the organisation 40 Millions d’automobilistes (40 Million Motorists), which has 320,000 members, said Najdovski’s arguments are “utter rubbish”.

“If Anne Hidalgo wants to ride a bicycle then that’s up to her, but why should motorists suffer? Let’s make no mistake, her goal is purely electoral and this stupid idea will please two or three bobos (bourgeois-bohemians) and upset 10 million others. She doesn’t care about the people in the banlieues [suburbs] because they don’t vote for her.”
“If you close a major road, it’s obvious the cars aren’t just going to disappear. Anne Hidalgo isn’t David Copperfield. They’re going to turn up elsewhere and there will be traffic jams elsewhere,” Chasseray told the Guardian.

He added: “City hall wants to change people’s habits by force, but we’re not a dictatorship. Instead of closing the highways, they should find a way for cars and pedestrians to coexist.”
The Ile-de-France regional president Valérie Pécresse, of the opposition centre-right Les Republicains (LR) party, said the trial should last a year to take account of “spikes in pollution” in summer months. She said the pedestrianisation project was “seductive” but added: “It all comes down to how it’s done.”
“Paris cannot take brutal decision without real consultation and without taking into account the impact on the banlieue,” Pecresse told Le Monde.
Full article here. Read more »

Ian – Memo to Vancouver: Whenever someone says that nothing can be done to make Vancouver more affordable … they’re wrong.

Rent control laws in the city of Paris are doing exactly what they were designed to do. That’s what France’s Minister for Housing, Emmanuelle Cosse, has been saying in recent celebratory interviews to the French media. …

According to figures released by Paris’s Rent Observatory this week, 30 percent of the city’s new residential rental contracts signed over the past year have come in lower than the previous contract for the same properties. …
In zones of high demand—a.k.a. the cities of Paris, Marseille, Lyon, Montpellier, Ajaccio and Arcachon—all rental contracts are overseen by an official observatory. This observatory estimates and fixes a median rent per square meter for a given area, separating the district’s real estate into price bands based on whether it’s furnished and the number of rooms.
No future rental contract is allowed to charge more than 20 percent more than the fixed median rent for the apartment’s price band. This not only (in theory) prevents galloping rent rises, it also provides prospective tenants with a clear marker of how much landlords have the right to charge.
That’s how it is supposed to work, at least. In practice, reports from real estate agents (who opposed the law) suggest that landlords are still getting away with charging too much in some areas. This is because it’s up to tenants to complain, and in certain areas many of them are prepared to pay extra to get the right apartment.
Still, even amid reports of overcharging, the overall proportion of overpriced apartments is falling, so the law is clearly having some effect even if informing tenants of their rights has remained an issue.

From Scot:

More in the New York Post here. Read more »

The kind of changes unimaginable not a few years ago:
Londonfrom the BBC:

Oxford Street will be pedestrianised by 2020, the mayor of London’s office has said.
All traffic including buses and taxis will be banned from the shopping street – one of the most famous in the world – as part of Sadiq Khan’s plans to tackle air pollution.
More than four million people visit Oxford Street each week.
City Hall said the project would be rolled out in two stages to reduce disruption on the 1.2-mile street.

Paris from CityLab:

Last year, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo promised to makeover seven major Parisian squares. This March, following a public consultation, Paris City Hall came up with the goods, providing detailed plans that will transform these famous, beautiful spaces in the period between now and 2020.
Looking at the details, it seems the city’s ambitions haven’t so far been diluted. Each square will be semi-pedestrianized—literally so, as a mandatory 50 percent of each square’s surface area will be given over to pedestrians. This means slicing away large sections of space currently allotted to cars, abolishing some lanes and slowing traffic in others. In each square, road vehicles will be restricted to lanes with a maximum width of 12 meters (39 feet), with the rest ceded to pedestrians and cyclists.

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Like London, Paris is now building fast bike lanes free of motorized vehicles, as mentioned in this article from City Lab. Last year the first part of this network opened along the Bassin de l’Arsenal, part of the Reseau express velo (REVe).  “Reve” means “dream” in French, and such a separated bike system in a city known for its traffic and complexity will be welcomed. The Mayor Anne Hidalgo has stressed the importance of an active and pollution free city in her bid for the 2024 Olympic Games. The intent is to have 45 kilometers of bike lanes free of motorized vehicles in place across Paris by 2020. Remember this is Paris-with lots of traffic, and a pretty dense urban form.
Paris has just been awarded the World Wildlife Fund’s Global Earth Hour Capital 2016 for their leadership in banning older polluting cars, extending public transportation and implementing a review process through a centralized Climate Agency to ensure goals of sustainability are met for current and future citizens.
If we were to create the same separated bicycle highways in Vancouver outside of the downtown and Seaside Greenway, what streets should they be located on, and how would they be prioritized? Would we use the existing bikeway network, remove some parking and install barriers? Would the first priority be strengthening dedicated fast bike lane connections to and from SkyTrain and Canada Line stations? Or do we look at Greenways,  that network of 140 kilometers of street that are for pedestrian and bicycle users ahead of motorized traffic as the dedicated fast bike streets of the future?

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Ian: Let’s see some of this in West Van / Point Grey 🙂

The French capital badly needs more affordable housing and is building a large amount of it between now and 2020, with one significant twist. Almost 5,000 of these new affordable units will be built in the city’s center and west, giving future tenants some of the wealthiest neighbors in all France. As you might expect, the plans are controversial. So is this a necessary social rebalancing, or class war?

The concept seems somewhat less dramatic when you zoom out to the bigger picture. Paris hopes to create 7,000 new public housing units every year between now and the next elections in 2020. Given that only 5,000 units in total are planned for especially prosperous areas across this period, that means that most new units will still be created in the less wealthy east, where most of the city’s public housing is already concentrated.

Full article here.


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