May 21, 2019

Road Safety and the Green New Deal

Aside from Toronto’s snail pace of bike lane and public transit installation, one thing that has become incredibly frustrating for me is the lack of global climate action despite the Kyoto (1997) and Paris (2015) agreements. At a time the world’s leading scientists urged people to reduce greenhouse emissions in half by 2030 to avoid catastrophic climate change, they elect folks such as Donald Trump in the United States and Doug Ford in Ontario who are doing the opposite. Something that has gotten me worried about this fall’s federal election. The good news is millions of youth – inspired by Swedish 16-year-old Greta Thunberg – have had enough and held school strikes urging world leaders to treat climate change as an emergency. American politicians such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez declared a need for a Green New Deal; something recently introduced in Canada as the next step to the Leap Manifesto.

What is the Green New Deal? Inspired by the 1930’s New Deal that got America out of the Great Depression and the mass mobilization during World War II, the Green New Deal calls for a complete transformation of society to a sustainable future. The Green New Deal recognizes many of the problems we face are interconnected including pollution, biodiversity, economic inequality, Indigenous rights, racism, housing, gridlock, education, and public health to name a few. Given this interconnected nature, the Green New Deal calls on people representing these diverse interests to work together on a bold plan that will work for everyone, while calling on politicians of all stripes to support it.
Safe cycling infrastructure is needed to act on climate and stop the need for these memorial rides
Why should road safety advocates support a Green New Deal? Our cities have been designed primarily for cars since World War II; resulting in transportation being a major cause of pollution, decreased safety for people who walk or bike, and increased obesity from lack of exercise. Even if all cars were to become electric and/or autonomous overnight, the issues of gridlock and lack of safety will remain because the real issue is there are too many cars. Instead, city planners need to take a complete streets approach to road design to ensure the safety of those who walk, bike, or take transit. People need to be discouraged from driving through higher gas prices, road tolls, and congestion charges, given people will continue to drive if it remains too easily accessible. This carrot and stick approach is why the Netherlands and Denmark have high cycle mode shares.

In addition to street design, cargo bikes can be a good solution for goods movement. Online shopping has made traffic congestion from trucks worse over the years, which can partially explain why we see couriers blocking bike lanes so often. Instead, courier companies could drop off smaller goods at depots which can then be transported by cargo bike for the last mile. This will greatly reduce the need for heavy trucks on city streets, though they will still be needed for larger goods such as furniture and appliances. E-assist, anyone?
Town halls such as this Bloor bike lane event in April are needed to ensure the Green New Deal includes everyone
With all this potential for active transportation as climate action – not to mention the countless other positive effects – it only makes sense for active transportation groups across Canada to join the Green New Deal and ensure active transportation is represented throughout the plan’s development. Joining these efforts can help secure new allies in pushing for cycling projects such as the extension of Toronto’s Bloor bike lanes to High Park. A critical point given successful cycling campaigns such as Richmond-Adelaide and Bloor required building a big tent of support including residents, businesses, and community groups.

At the time of writing, almost 50,000 Canadians have pledged to support a Green New Deal, which you can do at Supporters are also encouraged to attend town halls to help identify what a Green New Deal needs to include.

Think green! 
Rob Z (e-mail)

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