In terms of health, I believe pedestrian life and more abundant, affordable electric mass transit are best. Yet, due to lack of good transit, inconvenience, work, and a litany of other issues, too many of us depend on car travel. Sometimes it seems it is not only white privilege, but car privilege, that rules, while causing harm. Lighter-footprint pedestrians and bicyclists do not deserve the exhaust blowing in their faces and brains.
I once heard Helen Caldicott say the planet is on total organ collapse. More recently, in an interview with Dr. Helen Caldicott, 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient, when asked about climate policies, she responded, “I’m afraid at this stage my prognosis is grim re both subjects. I see little if any movement by the body politic to remedy these extraordinarily dangerous issues that presently confront the human race, let alone all other species.”
Many had hope “ridesharing” would help cut pollution, but what we got — Uber and Lyft — actually add to traffic and pollution, according to a new report from Transport & Environment and a coalition of green NGOs campaigning to clean up taxi companies such as Uber. Many of us have considered the over-driving of car services such as Uber and Lyft (especially if we’ve been drivers cruising the roads for rides), but we haven’t quantified it. This study attempted to do so, examining the differences between taxis, personal-hire vehicles (PHVs), and specifically Uber drivers.
The European report continues: “Data compiled by Euromonitor for European research and campaign group Transport & Environment (T&E) shows a surge in the number of Uber drivers (officially registered as private hire vehicles — PHV) in the past few years. In France, which liberalized the taxi market in 2015, the a number of reported PHV drivers doubled in three years (from more than 15,000 in 2016 to 30,000 in 2019). And the number of Uber drivers in London almost doubled in three years (from 25,000 in 2016 to 45,000 in 2018), accounting for roughly half the total PHV license number.”
Digging into T&E’s numbers does not put Uber in good light. Yoann Le Petit, new mobility expert with T&E, said:
“Uber’s CEO tells us they ‘do the right thing, period.’ But the reality is that Uber is part of the traffic and pollution problem, adding car trips in our cities and adding to the climate and pollution crisis. If it wants to become part of the solution Uber needs to stop using petrol and diesel cars and rapidly shift to 100% electric rides. That’s the right thing to do, full stop.”
“The analysis estimates that in London and Paris alone, the emissions of Uber taxi services could be as high as half a megatonne of CO2 — 515 kilotonnes of CO2. This is equivalent to adding the CO2 emissions of an extra 250,000 privately owned cars to the road.”
Worryingly, French government data from 2017 show that 90% of the registered private hire (leasing) vehicles, which includes Uber, were diesel cars.
How should these issues be addressed? Efforts to electrify Uber, Lyft, and other PHV and taxi fleets should be encouraged and supported. Lyft has been leading the way on that, but there’s still a long way to go. Consumers can also consider electric/Tesla-focused transport services. And then there’s the simple, old-school, but highly effective and efficient option: ride transit, especially if it’s now electric transit.
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