Sustainable transport - a green roadmap?
11th June, 2009
Sustainable transport offers not only a golden ticket out of our pollution- and traffic-choked cities, but also a means of improving the health and wellbeing of travellers and society alike. Hank Dittmar explores the greener way to go
People have always moved to cities for opportunities, and cities have always been places where jobs and services are concentrated. The inherent advantage of cities is accessibility to other people, to goods and to services – what might be called ‘location efficiency’. People travel fewer miles by car in cities, consume less energy per capita in cities, and providing them with energy, water, transport and food is more efficient than in suburban or rural settings.
Particularly in the United Kingdom, our ambivalence about cities has led to a tradition in planning and development that sought to marry the advantages of urban life – convenient transport, good jobs, reliable power, water and services – to the ideal of life on the manor or in the village, with trees, capacious gardens and housing standing together in a manner isolated from work, shops and schools.
The Town and Country Planning Act promoted the separation of uses into distinct districts connected by roads optimised for speedy travel by car. This was called zoning, and in pursuit of quality of life it has tended to destroy the inherent environmental advantage of urban living, as it has forced travel by car from isolated suburban locations to accomplish the daily activities of our lives. And so the suburbs, which sought to merge the best of urban living with the best of country life, have resulted in cancelling out both.
Illustration: Clare Nicholas
To continue reading this article or to read more articles from our Special Issue on Sustainable Cities, find out where you can pick up a copy of the June 2009 issue of the Ecologist
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To read a preview of Hank Dittmar's article, Sustainable cities: the future of the human habitat
To read a preview of Susan Roaf's article, Homes for climate change
To read a preview of Carolyn Steel's article, How to feed a city
This article first appeared in the Ecologist June 2009