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The transition to low-carbon buses in Mexico: It’s not (only) about the money

Alejandro Hoyos Guerrero's picture
Credit: Taís Policanti/WRI
Transitioning from diesel buses to cleaner technologies can significantly contribute to tackling air pollution in cities and reducing the carbon footprint of urban transport. As alternatives to diesel are getting more and more viable, many governments and development partners are encouraging bus operators to make the switch, mostly by offering financial incentives such as example 1 or example 2.

However, after promoting cleaner buses in Mexico for five years, we have seen firsthand that financial incentives alone are not enough. Specifically, there are three main obstacles that impede the expansion of cleaner bus fleets, and should be addressed appropriately.

New technologies and risk aversion

In general, private bus operators tend to be very risk averse when it comes to experimenting with new vehicle technologies. This is not exactly surprising: according to our own calculations from different projects in Latin America, variables related to vehicle performance—like fuel and maintenance—make up over 2/3 of costs over the life cycle of a conventional diesel bus. In that context, operators who are not familiar with the performance of new vehicle technologies can understandably perceive the transition to a cleaner fleet as a huge financial gamble.

Getting to zero traffic fatalities: What will it take?

Irene Portabales González's picture
Also available in: Español
Photo: Geraint Rowland
We must stop deaths on the roads. No one would argue with that, of course. But for us who live in Peru and many other developing countries, the importance of making road safety a global development priority really hits home—especially after a string of dramatic crashes that have made headlines across the country.

Last February, a bus fell to the bottom of a 200-metre ravine and left 45 dead in Arequipa, including several children. A month before, the country witnessed its deadliest traffic crash on record when a bus plunged down a cliff in Pasamayo, just north of Lima, killing some 52 people.

According to government data, 89,304 traffic crashes were reported on the Peruvian road network in 2016, with a total of 2,696 fatalities. However, the latter figure only includes deaths occurring within 24 hours of a crash, and does not account for victims who may die from their injuries later on.

The global statistics are equally concerning. The World Health Organization (WHO) shows in its Global status report on road safety 2015 that traffic crashes represent one of the main causes of death globally, and is actually the leading cause for people aged 15 to 29.

World Bicycle Day: Meet the man who made it happen

Yohan Senarath's picture
Photo: CIFOR/Flickr
Three years ago, Professor Leszek Sibilski embarked on an academic project to explore the role of bicycles in development. Little did he know then that his project would evolve into a massive advocacy effort, backed by the Sustainable Mobility for All initiative, to have the United Nations designate a day to celebrate and promote bicycle use around the world. He succeeded. On April 12th 2018, all 193 UN member states adopted General Assembly Resolution A/Res/72/272, which declared June 3 as World Bicycle Day. The resolution was sponsored by Turkmenistan and co-sponsored by some 56 countries.
 
I sat down with Professor Sibilski himself to learn more about this inspiring story.
 
Yohan Senarath: Did you ever expect this project to end up delivering a UN resolution?
 
Professor Leszek Sibilski: Well Yohan, I strongly believe that it was part of my destiny to help bring this to fruition. Let me explain why. For ten years I was a member of the Polish national cycling team. I obtained my Masters in physical education with a specialty in cycling. After that, I worked as a sports reporter for the Polish equivalent of Sports Illustrated, covering professional cycling around the world. Cycling was my life. Now, combine all this cycling experience with my commitment to social work. I completed my PhD in Applied Sociology specializing in Social Action and Social Movements, and at one time served as a member of the Experts Group that was helping to put together the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. In other words, I was a cyclist who wanted to make a difference!

Maximizing finance for safe and resilient roads

Daniel Pulido's picture


Around the world, roads remain the dominant mode of transport and are among the most heavily-used types of infrastructure, accounting for about 80% of the distance travelled for individuals and 50% for goods.

Despite this intensive use, the funding available for road maintenance has been inadequate, leaving roads in many countries unsafe and unfit for purpose.

To make matters worse, roads are also very vulnerable to climate and disaster risk: when El Niño hit Peru in 2017, the related flooding damaged about 18% of the Peruvian road network in just one month.

It is no surprise then that roads are the sector that will require the most financing. In fact, the G20 estimates that roads account for more than half of the $15 trillion investment gap in infrastructure through 2040.

Sustainable mobility and citizen engagement: Korea shows the way

Julie Babinard's picture
Suwon's EcoMobility Festival. Photo: Carlos Felipe Pardo
The discussion on climate change often tends to ignore one critical factor: people’s own habits and preferences. In urban transport, the issue of behavior change is particularly important, as the transition to low-carbon mobility relies in large part on commuters’ willingness to leave their cars at home and turn to greener modes such as public transit, cycling, or walking.
 
Getting people to make the switch is easier said than done: decades of car-centric development, combined with the persistence of the private car as a status symbol, have made it hard for policymakers to take residents out of their vehicles.
 
Against this backdrop, I was inspired to learn about the example of Suwon, Gyeonggi Province, a city of 1.2 million some 45km south of Seoul I visited on my last trip to the Republic of Korea.
 
Officials in Suwon have realized that, although awareness of climate change is becoming widespread, behavioral engagement hasn’t quite caught up. To overcome this challenge, the city decided to make sure residents could be directly involved in the design and implementation of its urban transport strategy.

Zero docks: what we learnt about dockless bike-sharing during #TTDC2018

Leonardo Canon Rubiano's picture
Dockless bikes typically sport bright colors that make them easy to identify.
Photo: Montgomery County/Flickr

How can we harness the digital economy to make mobility more sustainable? This question was the main focus of this year’s Transforming Transportation conference, which brought together some of most creative and innovative thinkers in the world of mobility. One of them was Davis Wang, CEO of Mobike, a Chinese startup that pioneered the development of dockless bike-sharing and is now present in more than 200 cities across 12 countries. In his remarks, Wang raised a number of interesting points and inspired me to continue the conversation on the future of dockless bike-share systems and their potential as a new form of urban transport.

What exactly is dockless bike-sharing (DBS)?

Introduced in Beijing just under two years ago, dockless bike-share has been spreading rapidly across the world, with Mobike and three other companies entering the Washington, D.C. market in September 2017.

As their name indicates, the main feature that distinguishes “dockless” or “free-floating” systems from traditional bike-share is that riders can pick up and drop off the bicycles anywhere on the street rather than at a fixed station.

This is made possible by a small connected device fitted on each bike that allows users to locate and unlock the nearest bike with their smartphone in a matter of seconds—yet another new derivative of the “internet of things” revolution!

Transforming Transportation 2018: To Craft a Digital Future for All, We Need Transport for All

Jose Luis Irigoyen's picture



Exponential progress in how we collect, process and use data is fundamentally changing our societies and economies. But the new digital economy depends fundamentally on a very physical enabler. Amazon and Alibaba would not exist without efficient ways to deliver products worldwide, be it by road or ship or drone. The job you applied for through Skype may require travel to London or Dubai, where you’ll expect to get around easily.

In fact, as the backbone of globalization, digitization is increasing the need to move people and goods around the planet. Mounting pressure on transportation as economies grow is leading to unsustainable environmental and safety trends. Transport needs are increasingly being met at the cost of future generations.

Can the digital revolution, which depends so much on efficient global and local mobility, also help us rethink transportation itself? To be a part of the solution to issues such as climate change, poverty, health, public safety, and the empowerment of women, the answer must be yes. Transport must go beyond being an enabler of the digital economy to itself harnessing the power of technology.

Why sustainable mobility matters

Hartwig Schafer's picture
Photo: Mariana Gil/WRI
In the 1960s, the vision of future mobility was people with jet packs and flying cars – we believed these innovations wouldn’t be far off after the moon landing in 1969. Obviously, the reality in 2017 is somewhat different.

Today, we have congestion in cities, rural areas cut off from the rest of the world, and too many people without access to safe, efficient, and green transport. This stifles markets and hinders people from the jobs that will help them escape poverty. Without access to sustainable mobility, it will be much harder—if not impossible— to end poverty and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

And perhaps the most tragic reality is this: that approximately 1.3 million people die each year in traffic-related incidents. Young people, those between the ages of 15-29, are the most affected by road crashes. This heartbreaking and preventable loss of life should be a clear signal that road safety matters.

At the same time, how we change transport is vitally important and will impact generations to come.

Sustainable mobility: Who's who and who does what?

Shokraneh Minovi's picture


Some might call it an existential question. Some may be surprised that the answer is not clear. When it comes to sustainable mobility initiatives and stakeholders, who is who, and who does what? Addressing these questions is a key pre-requisite to the transformation of the transport sector and the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals.

The SDGs, the Global Decade of Action for Road Safety, the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), the Vienna Programme of Action for Landlocked Developing Countries, over 100 different organizations and initiatives… It’s enough to make your head spin! As the world increasingly recognizes the importance of mobility to the overall sustainable development agenda, the number of stakeholders in this arena has been growing steadily. Although many established groups have been warning us for years about the role of transport in the fight against climate change—the sector accounts for some 23% of all energy-related greenhouse gas emissions—many newer players are now adding their voice to the global conversation.

From public transport agencies to car companies and ride-sharing platforms, clean fuel advocates, maritime transport groups, and electric vehicle proponents, a dizzying array of sector-specific initiatives have emerged over the last few years. Newer city-specific coalitions, such as the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group and the Compact of Mayors, have played a critical role in relaying these concerns at the local level. However, global initiatives have been the ones that have seen the most impressive growth. Also in the mix are globally minded, from UN entities to smaller NGOS, as well as region-specific organizations such as regional development banks.

What’s the solution to untangling this web of stakeholders? Over the past six months, the World Bank, with support from the World Economic Forum, has mapped out major transport initiatives and organizations as comprehensively and systematically as possible.

How far are we on the road to sustainable mobility?

Nancy Vandycke's picture
You can now download the full report and explore the main findings on sum4all.org
The answer, unfortunately, is not very. The world is off track to achieving sustainable mobility. The demand for moving people and goods across the globe is increasingly met at the expense of future generations.
 
That is the verdict of the Global Mobility Report (GMR)—the first ever assessment of the global transport sector and the progress made toward achieving sustainable mobility.
 
This is the first major output of the Sustainable Mobility for All initiative (SuM4All), a global, multi-stakeholder partnership proposed last year at the United Nations (UN) Climate Action Summit with the purpose of realizing a future where mobility is sustainable. The release of this study puts a sector often overlooked by the international community squarely on the map as essential to address inclusion, health, climate change and global integration.
 
The report defines sustainable mobility in terms of four goals: universal access, efficiency, safety, and green mobility. If sustainable mobility is to be achieved, these four goals need to be pursued simultaneously.

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