SUSTAINABLE MOBILITY: THE SOLUTION FOR CLEAN CITIES WITHOUT TRAFFIC JAMS.

1 December 2021

1. Introduction.

The climate is changing worldwide. The conclusions of the report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which was published back in 2007, speak for themselves in that regard[1]. It is also certain that we - as human beings - through the burning of fossil fuels and through industrial and agricultural activities, are the main cause of these climate changes.

The consequences of the way we treat the earth are far-reaching for both people and the environment, to say the least. As sea levels rise, the number of people affected by floods will increase enormously. The increase in extreme weather conditions, such as increasingly powerful hurricanes and changes in precipitation patterns are already claiming more victims than before. More drought leads to more forest fires and desertification. In countries where there is already a shortage of clean drinking water, this will only increase in the future.

Developing countries are particularly vulnerable to climate change because the possibilities for adaptation are often simply lacking there. If we want to leave a liveable planet to future generations and, at the same time, safeguard the right of existence of our economic system, something really has to change.

Until recently, addressing these problems was the exclusive domain of governments and non-profit organisations. Meanwhile, the business community has also become aware and convinced that they can and may no longer hide. Solving problems starts with taking personal responsibility. Both at individual and at organisational level. Personal and corporate responsibility.

A positive development is that a growing number of organisations and individuals are proactively taking their responsibility and (want to) make a concrete contribution to a more liveable and healthier society. In that context, the emergence of new initiatives and business models for sustainable (mobility) solutions for the metropolitan transport problem is hopeful, stimulating and at the same time releases a lot of positive energy.

These initiatives meet the wishes and ambitions of politicians, city councils, organisations and citizens, all of whom experience on a daily basis that - in this case - alternative and more sustainable forms of mobility are rapidly becoming necessary.

Change is a choice. Fundamental behavioural changes usually take a long time before the desired results become visible. Time that we are actually not given and that, given the enormous problems and challenges that our society faces on a daily basis, we simply do not have anymore.

2. The challenges of each city.

By 2050, almost 70% of the world's population will live in cities[2]By then, these cities are expected to account for over 70% of the world's gross product. A modern and optimally functioning city is of vital importance to its residents, businesses and visitors. In the coming decades, every (large) urban environment will be faced with major social, cultural, economic and ecological challenges. These challenges require a practical, multidisciplinary, holistic and future-proof approach to adequately address the threats and opportunities. New visions, solutions and forms of cooperation between citizens, NGOs, companies and the government are needed to create an urban environment where it is safe, good and above all healthy to live.

2.1 Trends in Europe

The healthy living environment is in constant decline and is therefore one of the bigger challenges that cities will have to face in the coming years. Poor air quality has a huge negative impact on the health of many vulnerable groups in our society: children, pregnant women and the elderly. In the UK alone, 40,000 people die prematurely each year as a result of poor air quality.[3]. The result is an enormous increase in health care costs, costs that society ultimately all contributes to. One of the biggest culprits is the rapidly increasing poor air quality in cities, which is largely caused by the huge increase in (car) traffic.

In addition, the increase in traffic in and around cities throughout Europe (and beyond) leads to major traffic jams every day with all the negative consequences that this entails. Air and noise pollution are increasing year after year. In addition, urban traffic is responsible for 40% of CO2 emissions and 70% of emissions of other pollutants (fine) from road traffic.

With the increase in urban traffic, cities are not only increasingly becoming an unhealthy place to live in, they are also becoming more crowded and less accessible. This greatly impedes and deteriorates the liveability and competitiveness of cities.

2.2 Electric vehicles do not offer a solution

Experts increasingly claim that if cities want to solve their traffic congestion problems in the short term and improve air quality at the same time, a large proportion of all transport should be done by walking, cycling or public transport.[4].

Despite the opposition of sceptics and entrepreneurs who, for various reasons, can hardly imagine an inner city without cars, trucks and buses, more and more city councils are seriously considering this option out of necessity and realistic vision of the future.

The number of cities introducing periodic car-free Sundays is growing every year. Cities such as Barcelona, Berlin, Utrecht, Paris, London and Hamburg have concrete plans to make large parts of the city accessible only to pedestrians, cyclists and electric cars.[5] [6].

The latter brings us straight to a widespread misconception: the large-scale deployment of electric cars and buses will make a substantial positive contribution to improving air quality in cities.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Recent research commissioned by the EU shows that almost 50% of the poor air quality is caused by harmful dust particles released through the tyres and brake discs of cars/buses during braking and windblown dust caused by the movement of vehicles.[7]. That is why the leading professor Frank Kelly[8] indicates that, in order to stop air pollution, cars and buses should be banned from cities and not - as is currently the case - replaced by electric cars and buses[9].

A significant proportion of journeys to and from the city involve commuting. In Europe, 66% of working professionals say they travel to work by private car, while 34% use public transport.

With almost 40% of this group taking more than 45 minutes for a single journey to work - door to door[10].

2.3 Electric bikes: the way to Rome?

This brings us to an obvious alternative: the electric bicycle. The pedelec is currently enjoying rapid growth around the world and is seen as a serious alternative to much of today's polluting city traffic and commuting.

The widespread use of electric bikes can make a significant contribution to healthier cities. Cities where it is nicer to live and work. Cities that are more accessible. Add to this the fact that cycling demonstrably contributes to employee vitality and has a positive effect on absenteeism.[11]. In other words, those who cycle stay healthy and live longer, according to a recent study[12].

3. The Netherlands: a leader in sustainable mobility.

3.1 The pedelec as a serious alternative to commuting

In 2021, the car will still be the most common means of commuting to and from cities in the Netherlands, although there are large differences between cities. In Amsterdam and The Hague, the share of the car for commuting to/from the city is about 55%, for Rotterdam it is over 65% and for Utrecht over 60%. For the other cities in the Netherlands, there are large variations, with peaks such as Apeldoorn and Breda with over 80% and down such as Leiden with approximately 50%.

It is striking that the average commuting distance in the Netherlands is 22.6 kilometres. Four out of ten Dutch people do not even have to leave their place of residence. According to the most recent figures from the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS)[13].

A large number of Dutch employees live less than 15 kilometres from their workplace. A distance that, in practice, can easily be covered with an electric bike. And with the Speed Pedelec[14] Even a distance of 25 - 30 kilometres can be covered easily, enabling employees living at greater distances from work to commute sustainably. However, of the commuting distance, 77% is currently travelled by car, 10% by train and only 6% by bicycle. This is separate from the work-to-work traffic.

In short, for the modern Dutch employer who values sustainability and the reduction of the use of polluting cars - for commuting - there are plenty of concrete opportunities. In addition, there are opportunities for the Netherlands - in addition to being the global capital of cycling - to grow into an international (knowledge) leader in the field of sustainable mobility.

3.2 Plenty of benefits for employers

For employers the use of electric bicycles for its employees provides a direct benefit. a number of advantages on. Employees who cycle to work have greater travel reliability (less chance of delays due to traffic jams and parking problems), their road safety increases (fewer car accidents) and cycling also contributes to better health. All this ensures that employees arrive at work less stressed, which benefits job satisfaction and productivity.[15].

Furthermore, organisations can save substantial amounts of money by encouraging their employees to use electric bikes more often for commuting to work, as electric bikes are cheaper to use than cars and/or public transport.  

Research shows that a lease car driver is more than five times as expensive as an OV commuter and no less than 32 times as expensive as a bicycle commuter.[16]. You could say that it's better to take the electric bike. Better for your body, the environment and your wallet. In practice, however, things are much more difficult. Even in the cycling country of the Netherlands, employees still prefer the car over a bicycle or electric bike for relatively short commutes, and employers hardly set an example.

In 2019, for example, employees on average laid 9.7[17] kilometres a day to get to and from work by car. There are opportunities here for companies that have sustainable mobility as a spearhead of their policy. Practice shows that the use of electric bikes encourages employees to cycle to work more often, to cover greater distances and to save time. In short, the use of electric bikes lowers the threshold and increases the potential of 'employees within cycling distance'. With the pedelec, companies, employees and cities literally move forward!

4. Results of recent research.

Here is a selection of the results of recently conducted research[18] in relation to the use of pedelecs for commuting, among other things.

Over 1 in 3 Dutch people are prepared to use an electric bicycle to go to work if their boss gives them one.

  • 35% of the Dutch would currently want to travel to work by electric bicycle if they could get one from their boss. Another 17% would like to travel to work by electric bicycle if they had to travel a shorter distance to work.
  • Among people where the commuting distance is less than 25 kilometres, 49% indicated that they would ride a pedelec to work if they were given one by their boss.

 

A quarter of the Dutch cycle every day. Owners of electric bicycles cycle more often than non-owners.

  • 22% of all Dutch people cycle every day.
  • Owning a pedelec increases the frequency of cycling. Owners of electric bikes, cycle significantly more often than people who do not own electric bikes; 78% of owners cycle at least several times a week and 52% of non-owners cycle at least several times a week. This has increased compared to 2016.


8% of the Dutch use a pedelec to travel to work

  • The regular bicycle (32%) is still used significantly more often for commuting than the pedelec (8%).
  • The pedelec is most often used for commuting by 50-65 year olds (14%).
  • 5% of Dutch people mainly use the electric bicycle and 22% a regular bicycle to get to work.


62% of the Dutch are interested in the smartbike

  • The interest in the smartbike is very high. 62% say they find the smartbike a (very) interesting means of transport for themselves.
  • Two-thirds of pedelec owners interested in a smart bike find the track-and-trace function an interesting feature.


High-speed electric bike used by 1 in 20 pedelec owners

  • Meanwhile, 21% of all Dutch people own an electric bike.
  • The vast majority of these pedelecs (95%) can travel up to 25 kilometres per hour. 3% of all owners have an electric bike that goes up to a maximum of 45 kilometres per hour (a so-called high speed electric bike). This percentage was the same as 6% in 2016.


The pedelec is purchased mainly for its convenience

  • The most frequently cited reason for purchasing a pedelec remains the ease with which it can be used, for example with a headwind or in the hills (63%). For people aged 50 or younger, this reason remains less important (45%). Among this group, not arriving at their destination sweaty is more important.
  • The fact that cycling on a conventional bike is physically too heavy is cited significantly less often as a reason for purchasing a pedelec in 2018 than two years ago (32%).
  • 10% purchased an electric bicycle because it was (partly) reimbursed by his or her job. This is a higher percentage than in 2016 (7%).

5. Conclusion.

The electric bike is increasingly embraced as a serious, sustainable, healthy and economical alternative to transport by car and public transport. Commuting distances of up to 20 kilometres can be easily covered with an electric bike, and distances of up to 35 kilometres can be covered with a Speed Pedelec. Despite the many advantages that the electric bike brings, the electric bike is still relatively little used in the Netherlands as an alternative for commuting. Incorporating the electric bike into existing transport regulations for the staff seems to be the biggest obstacle.

This is expected to change rapidly in the coming years. Partly because of the limits of traffic problems and the growing awareness among employers and employees that the current way in which we - especially in large cities - deal with mobility is a dead end. Moreover, employees are discovering that the bicycle, and particularly the electric bicycle, can be an excellent alternative for work.

Imagine if the working population worldwide changed their habits? And take the electric bike instead of the car! How many fewer emissions of harmful substances would that result in? After all, every kilometre counts!

6. References.

[1] For a complete overview of the consequences of global warming, please refer to the IPCC 2007 report: IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007 (AR4)

[2] http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=48240#.We8n9pNl-Rs

[3] https://www.rcplondon.ac.uk/projects/outputs/every-breath-we-take-lifelong-impact-air-pollution 

[4] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/aug/04/fewer-cars-not-electric-cars-beat-air-pollution-says-top-uk-adviser-prof-frank-kelly

[5] http://www.carros.nl/achtergrond/autos-in-de-ban

[6] http://mobilitat.ajuntament.barcelona.cat/en/

[7] http://publications.jrc.ec.europa.eu/repository/bitstream/JRC89231/jrc89231-online%20final%20version%202.pdf 

[8] Frank Kelly is professor of environmental health at King's College London, chair of the Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants and official expert adviser to the UK government.

[9]  http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-40826648

[10] https://www.michaelpage.nl/nieuws-inzichten/studies/studie-woon-werkverkeer

[11] http://www.fietsberaad.nl/library/repository/bestanden/regelmatig_fietsen_KvL-L.09-01.971Nm_laag_DEF.pdf

[12] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2920084

[13] https://www.cbs.nl/nl-nl/nieuws/2017/32/bijna-4-op-de-10-werkt-en-woont-in-dezelfde-gemeente

[14] https://www.anwb.nl/fietsen/elektrische-fietsen/regels-speed-pedelec

[15] TNO, Cycling is green, healthy and economical, 2010.   

[16] https://www.mt.nl/columns/leaserijder-ruim-5-keer-zo-duur-als-ov-forens-infographic/87462

[17] https://www.cbs.nl/nl-nl/visualisaties/verkeer-en-vervoer/personen/van-en-naar-werk

[18] Source: GfK 2018 | Univé Consumers Monitor | The Electric Bike| March 2018

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