The air in our cities is about to get a whole lot cleaner.
The recent rapid grown in electric car sales is a positive sign for our environment, but it leaves two major problems:
1) Electric cars are still cars, and car-centric development is extremely problematic.
2) Personal vehicles make up just under 60% of transportation-related oil consumption, so electric cars still leave a large piece of the pie untouched.
Starting in 2025, the Mayors of London, Los Angeles, Paris, Cape Town, Copenhagen, Barcelona, Quito, Vancouver, Mexico City, Milan, Seattle and Auckland have promised to only purchase electric or other zero-emission buses for their city fleets, and to make "major areas" of their cities fossil-fuel-free by 2030 at the latest. Taken together, if fully and ambitiously implemented, these two efforts alone could make a significant dent in both local air quality and carbon emissions more broadly. While buses just make up 1% of transportation-related oil consumption (yup, they're pretty darned efficient), a combination of investment in cutting edge vehicles for mass transit and an effort to exclude or limit dirty cars, trucks and other vehicles sends a signal that world-class cities focus on people, not cars.
Already, cities like London are investing heavily in bike superhighways. And, of course, the significance reaches way beyond the 80 million people living directly in these cities, or the 59,000 buses roaming their streets. From shifts in investment and vehicle development, to setting an aspirational goal for other cities and towns to follow, initiatives like this can genuinely shape how businesses and communities everywhere will evolve to meet the challenges ahead.