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In cities across Europe, there is a popular graffiti stencil with a simple, if somewhat crude, message.
Next to a picture of a bicycle is the text: “THIS ONE RUNS ON FAT AND SAVES YOU MONEY”.
Next to a picture of a car: “THIS ONE RUNS ON MONEY AND MAKES YOU FAT”.
For those familiar with Brussels, the pedestrianized Boulevard Anspach sports such a stencil (presuming city authorities haven’t washed it away by now).
The message is part of a cycling culture that holds bicycles up as the solution to a myriad of societal ills (the medium of the message reinforces urban cyclists’ self-perception as vaguely counter-cultural, every two-wheeled journey a small rebellion against the dominance of cars).
Within this culture, bicycles are the solution to our sedentary lifestyles. They are the solution to reducing noise pollution from traffic and making streets safer. And above all, they are the solution to the environmental issues posed by private vehicles, from air pollution to climate change.
These truths, to paraphrase America’s founding fathers, are held to be self-evident.
Usually, critics of cyclists go after their bad behavior, such as breaking red lights or riding on pavements.
However, recent newspaper articles have aimed to turn cycling’s climate credentials on their head. The unassailable green bona fide of bicycles is being assaulted.
A column in the Swiss newspaper Handelszeitung has made a bold claim that cycling and public transport can actually be more damaging to the climate than driving.
This idea was repeated in the conservative German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitungwhere it is argued that the future of climate-friendly mobility is, contrary to what you may suspect, the automobile.
The crux of the argument is that cycling requires additional calories, which must be met through additional food consumption. And the carbon footprint of that extra food is more damaging to the climate than if one were to drive a car with four passengers.
Of course, yes transport experts have pointed outthe calculations used to come to this conclusion are more than a little suspect.
The original Swiss column initially assumes that beef – one of the most carbon-intensive foodstuffs available – will be used to fill up our hungry cyclist (perhaps he or she is adhering to the Jordan Peterson diet?)
It is taken as a given that cars are transporting four passengers, when cars have just under two occupants on average.
And it is also assumed that the distance covered by our cyclist is 100km, an absurd length way beyond most people’s daily commutes.
One of the strangest parts of the argument is that it only makes sense if you take it that car drivers don’t engage in any physical exertion.
But what if, to compensate for the lack of exercise from their commute, a motorist was to drive to a gym and cycle a stationary bicycle? Or what if a motorist drives to football training? Or even just go for a jog? Wouldn’t the gains from sitting behind the wheel be wiped out as their appetite expands?
Unsurprisingly, Philip Amaral, the European Cyclists’ Federation’s director of policy and development, pushed back against the media reports.
“Claims that cyclists create more emissions than cars, whether because of the calories cyclists consume or any other reason, are completely baseless,” he told EURACTIV. “A person who rides a bike instead of a car, even if just once a week, emits much less than someone who doesn’t, full stop.”
Perhaps our theoretical beef-chomping super cyclist is less green than thought.
But for everyone else, it’s safe to say that cycling not only burns fat and saves you money, it’s a surefire way to cut transport emissions too.
– Sean Goulding Carroll
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Railway Direction Days 2023 – development of HS rail in CEE
International meeting RDD 2023 will focus the benefits of transforming the inefficient public transport in the CEE into a modern, sustainable, resilient, and fully integrated transport system for better integration, boosting economic development and increasing the security of Europe.
More information >>
Can cooperation between competing regions actually work?
With the shift away from combustion engine vehicles, overall jobs in the automotive sector are set to decrease. As electric engines consist of fewer parts than their combustion counterparts, the manufacturing process is also less labor-intensive.
At the same time, new jobs will appear, notably in battery-making and charging infrastructure, but there will not be a “one-to-one replacement of jobs with electric mobility,” EU Employment Commissioner Nicolas Schmit acknowledged.
Schmit was speaking at the first meeting of the “Automotive Regions Alliance”, a new group of EU regions where the car industry represents a large share of local manufacturing, which now want to work closer together.
But in practice, the honorable goal of cooperation will be difficult to achieve. This difficulty is illustrated by an affair from earlier this year, where carmaker Ford pitted two of its locations, Valencia in Spain and Saarlouis in Germany, against each other to decide which region will become the production site for a new EV model.
The decision for Valencia, announced in June this year, left a grudge in Saarlouis, with the local workers’ council complaining last week that costs in the Spanish site had increased after the decision was taken.
So, can cooperation really prevent fierce competition for a decreasing number of jobs? Much will depend on the creativity of regional governments to create high-quality jobs outside the automotive sector, to which workers can transfer without having to move away from their home.
Not an easy task, but everyone who wants to prevent a serious backlash against the green transition should wish them success.
– Jonathan Packroff
The city of lights vs e-scooters
The rise of e-scooters has proven controversial, with cities across the continent considering how best to accommodate the novel transport mode.
Some cities have created dedicated parking spaces, with the aim of preventing vehicles from cluttering public space. Others have opted for much tighter restrictions.
Paris is one such city looking to rein in e-scooters. The French capital is considering banning rented electric scooters outright on public safety grounds.
Up to the end of August this year, the city registered 337 accidents with such vehicles, Reuters reported.
The move, if approved by the mayor, would see the licenses of major e-scooter rental companies Lime, Dott, and Tier expire without renewal this coming February.
However, not all Parisians are welcoming of the ban. A Change.org petition against the prohibition has received some 19,000 signatures.
One disabled user commented that e-scooters “contribute to [their] independence”, while another spoke of the increased sense of safety using an e-scooter brings.
“I can get home at night when I finish work, and safely. It’s really important to me. I can’t afford a taxi and night times are dangerous for women,” the petition signatory wrote.
One signatory favored regulation over a ban: “It is an advantage to have self-service scooters, they just must be parked in specific places and not in the middle of the sidewalk!”
A decision on the fate of e-scooters in Paris is expected in the coming weeks.
– Sean Goulding Carroll
BMW says e-fuels ‘definitely worth investigating’ for zero-emission cars
Electro fuels made from green energy sources may play a role in decarbonising road transport in years to come, complementing other clean propulsion technologies such as electric power, according to German auto manufacturer BMW.
EU car manufacturing regions to collaborate in moving towards electric vehicles
As the automotive industry shifts from combustion engine vehicles to cleaner technology, regional governments warn of increased competition between automotive regions for a decreasing number of jobs. To prevent this, they are calling for greater collaboration.
Commission rejects concerns of two-speed Europe for EV charging infrastructure
The European Commission has dismissed fears that the electric vehicle revolution will be mostly confined to richer member states in the coming years, arguing that binding targets and ongoing public and private investments will boost charging infrastructure equality across the EU27.
Electric vehicle shift alone will not solve urban transport woes, says the Portuguese minister
A shift to collective transport is needed to reverse the dominance of cars in cities and reach our decarbonisation targets, Portugal’s infrastructure minister said, refuting the notion that electric vehicles will end Europe’s urban transport woes.
Kazakhstan tells the EU: We can supply all 30 critical raw materials you need
Officials from Kazakhstan told a Brussels audience on Thursday (17 November) that the resource-rich country will soon be able to offer all the 30 critical raw materials the bloc needs, according to a list adopted in 2020.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]