Greener Ways to Get Around

Driving costs more than just fuel and maintenance: there’s an environmental price to pay too.

April 19, 2017
As the world chokes under our increasing emissions, the need for alternative, low-impact transport options including public transport, is appreciated around the world. There have been some great developments, and yet, the private car is still king. The fossil fuel-burning, precious metal-wasting, antisocial, CO2-producing steel bubble remains the most-used form of personal transport in the world, and the results are literally killing us.

So, I hear you wondering, what choice do I have? Here’s an easy solution: stop driving. Think about it. Why do you take your car? Convenience, comfort, independence, availability, access, habit. For you, those are all great reasons, but for the environment, they are just excuses. Here, we have broken down a broad range of alternative transport options by their environmental impact, social value, cost, and efficiency. Next time you are planning to head out somewhere, consider some of these leaner, greener, choices instead:

The bicycle has been described as the most important modern invention, more that the lightbulb or Internet. On top of the brilliance of the bicycle, one Dutch study concludes that for every minute spent riding a bike, you gain an extra minute of life expectancy. So, commuting or traveling by bike doesn’t actually take any time. You are also free to travel at your own speed, and explore areas of your neighborhood and city that you can’t in a car. What’s more, apart from the initial investment and some maintenance, biking is free.

• Using your body means building up a sweat. Take it easy: you will avoid arriving disheveled and overheated, and you will get a chance to see the world at a more leisurely pace.
• In some parts of the world, riding a bike does require you to take your life into your hands. But, by riding a bike, you are immediately reducing the danger of cycling in traffic—as more people ride them, there are fewer cars to endanger bikers. Once enough people start riding bikes, drivers become more aware of their presence too. A critical mass of riders encourages dedicated bicycle infrastructure, separating bicycle and car pathways.

When you were a baby, walking was a milestone. An achievement. A triumph over gravity, muscle, and coordination. Then, at some point in your life, walking became something most of us avoid at all costs. Walking requires effort, but it’s also incredibly rewarding. There’s no issue with parking, timetables, cost, or upkeep, except for maybe investing in a good pair of shoes. Walking lets you navigate your city at your speed, in your own way, and gives you every little chance to stop and see something along the way.

• Plan well. With traffic lights, intersections, and overpasses, how slow your walk is can vary enormously. If it’s hot, you will be hot. If it rains, you may get wet. Planning is key. Pack an umbrella, bring a bottle of water, or think about a shadier route.

The sexiest transport option in town. Rapid rail transport can save you time, money, and stress by offering a short, traffic-free path around the main central areas of the city, or into the outskirts. Hop on, hop off, and enjoy the comfort of modern rail transport. Like the bus, the train gives you time to do things that are more interesting than grip the steering wheel, but with the added bonus of shorter journey times and a more comfortable ride.

• They can be really crowded at peak hours, and the comfort level goes way down when you have to share a train car with a morning commute’s worth of strangers. Try to travel off-peak to avoid the jam. If you can’t avoid it, embrace it: bring a book, be considerate, and travel easy knowing that even at maximum occupancy, the train is still going to get you there faster than a car.

Yeah, I would count these as the same. While not the most attractive rides on offer, buses and ferries help to reduce congestion and emissions in areas not served by rail transport. Riding the bus or ferry results in a lower carbon footprint, whether the vehicle is electric or runs on fossil fuels. If you’re going to sit in a vehicle spewing fumes, you may as well sit in a bus or ferry and share those emissions with other passengers. What’s more, they are cheaper than driving your own car and you can ride all the way with your hands free to do other things: read a book, do some work, eat breakfast on the go, or have a few too many negronis after dinner and still get home safely.

• They don’t always run door-to-door. That means preparing for a bit of bipedal motion between your destinations. But what’s wrong with walking? It’s good for your health, and you get a chance to engage with your local environment (read: buy food along the way).
You might think your only option is to take a car, but that is because you can’t see past personal comfort, despite the damage it is doing to the environment. Not enough people are taking responsibility for the role they play in protecting the environment. Quitting the car is the best, fastest, and easiest way to immediately improve the quality of your life, mental health, and the air. It’s really not too hard: find a way to get where you need to go without sitting in the car.