Lucas Lyko: A to B, Carbon Free

by Lucas Lyko

Lucas Lyko: A to B, Carbon Free

Making transport work for us and the planet starts with changes at home. With transport continuing to make up a third of the UK’s carbon emissions, our sustained demand for hypermobility and goods may well prove to make transport a ‘roadblock to climate change mitigation’ [1].

The pandemic has changed the picture for transport perhaps more than any other sector, with many people stopping the daily commute by car; more taking to walking and cycling for necessary and recreational journeys; and councils and communities responding with new prioritisation of active travel on our streets.

While we can be quick to focus on the large-scale, such as international agreements or corporate sustainability policy, many of the issues most pertinent to our travel behaviour and its sustainability are fundamentally local: streets congested with vehicles; insufficient cycle lanes; busy roads cutting through our neighbourhoods. Local organisations understand the needs of their communities and demonstrate the potential of ambitious thinking at the local scale to bring about transformational change. These stories of change are what Carbon Copy calls #ThinkBigLocal.

Deliveries are a growing problem for road congestion and emissions, especially as we increasingly shop online. Zedify is a bike logistics firm that offers deliveries in a number of British towns, cities and neighbourhoods as an alternative to conventional delivery vans. A particular success has been in Waltham Forest where cargo bikes run deliveries for local retailers as well as logistics for the local authority’s public libraries.

Ginger is a company that has proved it can work alongside the interests of the communities it serves whilst reducing carbon emissions. It operates dockless electric scooters in a growing number of UK cities, in part offering a solution to the ‘last-mile problem’ – the distance between a public transport station and a person’s final destination that can prevent them from using public transport at all.

Community groups also make vital contributions in improving transport choices in their local area, such as in Manchester where the Levenshulme Bee Network has campaigned for ‘filtered neighbourhoods’ that prevent throughfare traffic in residential estates. This is part of a drive to discourage short car journeys and to make residential streets safer and more liveable.

Councils are the branch of government that have the greatest capacity to #thinkbiglocal and engage with the needs of their local communities. The pandemic has shown that councils and mayors have the capacity to act quickly in reprioritising streets away from the car, exemplified by the rapid rollout of pavement widening schemes and additional cycling routes in London since the first lockdown.

Whilst repurposing our streets, and reprioritising their users, is fundamental in making transport more sustainable and more equitable, there is also an urgent need to decarbonise the vehicles on the road, especially with the announced moratorium on new petrol and diesel car sales in the UK by 2030. Leeds City Council has developed a novel approach to overcoming the trepidation many consumers and businesses feel about a transition to electric vehicles, perhaps most frequently over ‘range anxiety’, by offering a free trial of electric vans to local companies. Another ‘roadblock’ in decarbonising road vehicles is access to chargers. Charge My Street is a powerful example of a community-led initiative making a vital contribution to the UK’s transition to electric vehicles. The group uses community investment to build a growing network of electric vehicle charging points in North East England, especially outside of urban areas, with the aim of every home being within a 5-minute walk of vehicle charging facilities.

That being said, electric cars run the risk of extending the status-quo of car dependence, or even increasing car use if energy prices fall, making them only part of the solution [2]. We need both technological changes and a shift in behaviour to address carbon emissions from transport.

Electric bikes combine the potential of technology with behaviour change and are being promoted as a way to replace journeys currently made by car. To promote their uptake, Way to Work Scotland offers a range of advice, guidance and financial support for companies to enable their workforce to benefit from active travel modes, as well as e-bikes, such as through company sharing schemes.

Transport is an exciting realm of climate action, being about so much more than ‘mere’ carbon emissions: (in)equality, opportunity, health, wellbeing, prosperity, locality and identity. The emphasis of many projects that #thinkbiglocal is fundamentally on the interests of the communities they serve. Going forward, putting community at the core of ‘building back better’ after the pandemic has the potential to make transport decarbonisation not only a necessity but something that communities demand. 

Photo by Egor Myznik on Unsplash

For more about changing transport for good, please listen to the panel discussion hosted by Carbon Copy: A To B, Carbon Free

[1] Felix Creutzig and others, ‘Transport: A Roadblock to Climate Change Mitigation?’, Science, 350.6263 (2015), 911–12 <https://doi.org/10.1126/science.aac8033>. 1/3 of emissions coming from transport does not include those from international passenger and freight movements.

[2] Jason Henderson, ‘EVs Are Not the Answer: A Mobility Justice Critique of Electric Vehicle Transitions’, Annals of the American Association of Geographers, 110.6 (2020), 1993–2010 <https://doi.org/10.1080/24694452.2020.1744422>.

Lucas Lyko is a second-year student at St Catherine’s College, Oxford studying Geography. He recently took part in a micro-internship programme at Carbon Copy.

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