The Dutch Vision for Sustainable Transportation

Photo: Mindcaster

The Dutch Vision for Sustainable Transportation

By Roger Rudick

The Dutch, of course, are arguably (is it even arguably?) the world leaders in getting people out of cars and using sustainable transportation; seventy percent of trips in the Netherlands are done by bicycle or public transit. But this is achievable in the Bay Area and the U.S. generally, said Giovanni Circella, a researcher at UC Davis who was also on the panel. “Davis is the only city in America that has this in common with the Netherlands: we have more bicycles than people,” he pointed out. But that didn’t just happen–it required the city to adopt and maintain a paving program that puts walking and bicycling “at the core of our policies.”

Circella’s research focuses on maintaining that commitment, but also on anticipating how policies will have to change to accommodate new mobility choices. “Electric scooters are becoming a big phenomenon, and there is a big opportunity, if we can align incentives for people to live without a car.”

Living without a car, however, doesn’t mean never using a car, pointed out the panelists. It just means a future where people, when they do need to drive, use ride-hail cars (and, in the future, autonomous cars), sometimes connecting to public transportation. This, explained Circella, is a way to make public transportation more accessible in sprawling areas of the U.S. and to solve the ‘last mile problem’ connecting people’s homes and offices with transit hubs. But, he warned, “We need to be careful not to cannibalize public transportation.”

He cited research that indicates that, thus far, ride-hailing isn’t supporting public transportation, but is instead pulling people from it. “So we need policies that align with sustainability.”

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