Earth Notes: Greener travel: Why We Should Cut Car-bon Miles

Updated 2021-05-31 13:53 GMT.
Each journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, but avoid taking that first step to the car! #podcast #CarFreeDay #WhatIf
Car Free Day Kingston play street
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Hi, I'm Damon Hart-Davis, and this is the Earth Notes podcast for 22nd September 2019.

Maybe I don't talk enough about travel on home-centric Earth Notes. Though I have written about green holidays.

Today is World Car Free Day, and I should be out marvelling at quiet roads and even the street party (maybe it's also a "play street") just next to me.

But today has been grey and cold and rainy and I haven't set foot outside yet.

It seems clear to me that the lowest carbon journey is the one not taken. I haven't paid office rent for any of my businesses since the mid-90s. Vestemi has about ten staff and all work from their homes from the Netherlands in the east across to Somerset in England's south west.

Apart from avoiding the pain and time suck of commuting, Skype and Google Docs and Office 365 and email, and good old (smart) phones, save us a lot of carbon.

We are in the process of installing Radbots in homes across the UK as part of the ECO3 Ofgem innovations programme, helping cut carbon, and fuel-poverty. That requires some travel, but under normal circumstances Radbot can be fitted by the occupants, so that's a small carbon puff now to save a much bigger one later, if it all works out.

I don't want to preach, eg to friends and colleagues who do fly. Rather I just try and do the right thing myself. This year we went by (largely electrified) public transport to the Med again.

Plane journeys are still increasing, the bulk of them being taken by a very few percent of the world's population. (At least half have never flown.) Multiple frivolous journeys per year, when aviation looks like being a very large chunk of all our carbon budgets in 2050 (maybe a third, if I've read the CCC summary right) seems deeply unfair. Visiting far-flung relatives occasionally or for the odd business or science face-to-face meeting seems more understandable. Doing it just for kudos and status, please no.

And cars ... to come back to today's topic ...

By my calculations the development value of a parking space in the London boroughs is something like £50,000, and according to a study for TfL in 2000 there are about 7 million car parking spaces. I believe that maybe 1 million of those are on public land such as roads. A huge free gift to every motorist.

On Twitter, Pedal Me suggests A 5% yield plus expenses would generate a suggested rent of about £3000/yr for a £50k car parking space. That's what we should be charging for car parking spaces, if we don't mean to be subsidising them.

(The area of two standard parking spaces is enough for one person to live in, or maybe have a decent office. I don't have a car so I'd like my free office space please!)

Transport emissions continue to rise, and air-quality problems from car particulates are real, killing many people prematurely.

We need somehow to get to a situation with far fewer private vehicles, taking far less public space parked and moving. And what's left of the fleet should be almost entirely electric.

(Electric vehicles aren't a panacea by themselves. Cars take a huge amount of space. They are usually parked 90% or more of their lives. When moving they take much more space per person than bikes or buses for example. And EVs still produce particulates from tire and road and brake wear.)

Anyway, enough whining from me. The sun is coming out!

There's more on my "Earth Notes" Web site at Earth.Org.UK.


  • 2021-04-07: "Chelsea Tractors" are a thing: Most fuel-hungry SUVs in the UK are bought by people in cities: SUVs in the UK are overwhelmingly bought by people in towns and cities rather than rural areas, with the London borough of Kensington and Chelsea the country's Range Rover capital. Despite emitting 25 per cent more carbon dioxide on average than a medium-sized car, SUVs have jumped from nearly 7 per cent of private cars sold in the UK in 2009 to more than 21 per cent in 2018. One recent global analysis found the rise of SUVs last year wiped out the environmental gains from electric cars. See also City drivers 'should think twice' before buying SUVs.
  • 2021-04-04: What if a parking permit cost the same per sq metre as your home? An 80sqm home at £1,500/month means a permit should cost **£2,700** a year. But most London councils charge <£200. A 92% discount on the apparent land value, for use solely by car owners.
  • 2021-02-04: How your legs can reduce your carbon footprint: Our study followed nearly 2,000 urban residents over time and found that those who switch just one trip per day from car driving to cycling reduced their carbon footprint by about 0.5 tonnes over a year, representing a substantial share of average per capita CO2 emissions. If just 10% of the population were to change travel behaviour in this way, the emissions savings would be around 4% of lifecycle CO2 emissions from all car travel. To put this into context, for the cities in this study, average per capita CO2 emissions from transport (excl. international aviation and shipping) ranged between 1.8 tonnes of CO2 per person per year in the UK to 2.7 tonnes of CO2 per person per year in Austria. According to the Global Carbon Atlas, average per capita CO2 emissions from all activities were eight tonnes per year in the UK (on a consumption basis).
  • 2021-01-19: Scania's commitment to battery electric vehicles: Scania has invested in hydrogen technologies and is currently the only heavy-duty vehicle manufacturer with vehicles in operations with customers. The engineers have gained valuable insights from these early tests and efforts will continue. However, going forward the use of hydrogen for such applications will be limited since three times as much renewable electricity is needed to power a hydrogen truck compared to a battery electric truck. A great deal of energy is namely lost in the production, distribution, and conversion back to electricity.
  • 2021-01-15: What Is the True Cost of Car Ownership?: It's way more than you think, and everyone is paying it whether they drive or not.
  • 2020-07-24: Edmonton's New Parking Rule Is an Urban Planner's Dream: For the first time, a major Canadian city won't require space for cars on any property. The cost of a single parking space can range from [CAD] $7,000 to $60,000.
  • 2020-06-01: Remote working: How cities might change if we worked from home more: ... because home heating and home insulation is far, far worse than modern commercial premises are ... Some work we did in Leicester showed that if you work from home, on average you use 75% more energy than you save by not going into work. And that corresponds to a 75% increase in carbon dioxide - purely and simply because if you need heating and gas, electricity at home, that's more than what you save by not going into work by car.
  • 2020-02: London in Numbers: 12% is roads, 10% is domestic buildings
  • 2019-09-24: CCC: International aviation and shipping and net zero.