Cities are essential to the world economy as they generate over 80% of the world’s GDP. But they also consume most of the world’s energy and many cities were not built with sustainability in mind.
Today, the world’s busiest urban areas are at a new inflection point. As the race to net zero gains momentum, cities are making changes to their transportation networks in a bid to make them greener and healthier for us and for the environment. As transportation generates 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions, it is clear that the future of travel depends upon sustainability. This means investment for modern and efficient public transport networks, accelerating the shift to electric-powered vehicles and making streets safe for pedestrians and cyclists.
Who are the current leaders in Urban Mobility?
Improvements to cycling infrastructure has been a key component in driving sustainable urban mobility. Not surprisingly, Amsterdam remains top when looking at the growth in cycling and related infrastructure, however other European cities such as London, Milan and Paris have all increased their number of cycling lanes and bike parking spots. Some cities have discovered different ways to encourage cycle commuting - Copenhagen has given cycles priority at traffic lights and Berlin has expanded access to bike sharing.
Scandinavian cities are certainly leading in sustainable mobility with Oslo encouraging electrification by offering incentives for EVs (electric vehicles) including high-occupancy vehicle lanes and investment in their charging infrastructure. In Norway, Amsterdam, Stockholm and Beijing, EVs now account for over three-quarters of new car sales. Electrification is also reaching public transport with Bogota and Santiago adopting electric buses.
Other cities have adopted innovative ways to drive the sustainability of their transport. Edinburgh has one of the largest car sharing clubs in the UK, meaning households who subscribe don't necessarily own their own cars, but pay to join a club and use a car only when they need it. Cities like London and Singapore have low-emission zones where only certain vehicles are allowed.
What struggles have we faced?
Strict lockdowns during the pandemic saw a drastic decline in public transit amid a shift to private vehicles. These changes, coupled with the closure of local businesses and decrease in tourism has caused a loss of revenue for many transport companies making it harder for them to invest in innovation.
For cities that rank lower in sustainability, the future offers plenty of opportunity. New technologies can enable cities in developing economies to launch straight to the next generation of urban mobility. Gulf cities are investing in mobility innovation with Dubai introducing self-driving taxis and Riyadh launching the driverless metro.
Why must we drive sustainability?
These are some of the critical components of sustainable urban development because of their many benefits:
Reduction of harmful emissions
Enhanced air quality
Improved health and wellness
Green technology is the key to a sustainable future. To adopt greener practices and build healthier cities, we need smart connectivity, technology-driven efficiency, and data insights to make smarter, greener decisions.