According to a major new report from the OECD, cycling is one of the signs of a successful city. However, it also warns that in most cities the true costs of running a car are not reflected in the cost, and that even worse, with continuing urban sprawl, people are actually being given an incentive to drive.
Bikeboom.info – the website for Carlton Reid’s new book – reports how the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) released The Metropolitan Century last week, a look at urbanisation and its consequences. As you might imagine, a lot of its focus is on cities’ impact on the environment.
Strikingly, it points out that cycling is one field in which city dwellers are more environmentally friendly. "Proximity between businesses and people's homes is likely to promote sustainable transport means like walking or cycling." However, it also stresses that this benefit is negated by urban sprawl, concluding that, "in a large majority of cities, negative externalities of [car use] are not (correctly) priced. This implies that transport-related policies actually incentivise sprawl."
So what is the solution? The report advocates 'setting a realistic carbon price'.
"In the context of transport, it is particularly important that the incentives for car use reflect the true costs of driving a car. In most cases, this implies imposing higher taxes on driving into a city in order to account for so-called externalities such as air pollution and congestion."
While a mix of policies from different sectors is the overall recommendation, a congestion charge is one measure that is given a lot of emphasis. The report emphasises that charges need to be sufficiently high to be effective, pointing out that despite its charge, London remains the ninth most congested city in Europe with an average delay of 36 minutes per peak hour of driving.
Driverless cars are suggested as a future means of reducing congestion, but the report also adds that ‘low-tech solutions still offer great potential in many cities to reduce congestion’. As well as car pooling, it suggests bike share schemes as being a worthwhile measure.
"Bicycle sharing schemes offer a fast and flexible transport option that can substitute cars for short trips. Perhaps more importantly, they also offer an uncomplicated way to start cycling for people who have not done so before. Thereby, they can contribute to an increased acceptance of cycling and help to initiate a broader shift towards it."
The OECD seeks to promote policies that will improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world.