While in my previous posts I have utilized various internet resources to research sustainable living practices used around the globe, for this week's entry I have decided to write about the sustainable techniques used in London and Paris that I experienced first hand while travelling through these two cities last week. Although during my travels I visited Buckingham Palace, The Queen’s Gallery, the Tower of London, Harrods, countless Pubs, the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, the Pompidou Modern Art Museum, the Arc De Triumph, and French cafes, the sustainable techniques employed in these two European cities, while they might be foreshadowed by the aforementioned historical monuments, are as impressive and innovative. More specifically, London’s clean and efficient public transit systems coupled with its congestion pricing plan helps deter automobile use, while the pedestrian orientation of public space in Paris also helps create a environment capable of sustainable living. With London’s clean and efficient transit system and Paris’ public space makes both London and Paris two of the most beautiful and sustainable cities in the world.
According to a 2006 report, the city of London holds around 7.5 million residents, while the greater Los Angeles area has a population of 9,878,554. Even though Los Angeles has more residents living within its city boundaries, the city of London is capable of housing almost as large of a population compared to Los Angeles and still maintain sustainable practices through the use of an effective mass transit system combined with the practice of congestion pricing. While Los Angeles’ public transit system is under utilized for a number of reasons (see recent posts regarding Los Angeles public transit) the city of London’s public transit system is very popular for it is clean, it is efficient, and it is affordable compared to driving a private car during congestion charging time slots. London’s congestion charging system was introduced into central London in 2003 as a way to reduce traffic congestion and raise revenues to fund transport improvements. The London Congestion Pricing Report states that “a basic economic principle is that consumers should pay directly for the costs they impose as an incentive to use resources efficiently.” This report explains further than if road space remains free then traffic volumes will continue to increase until traffic congestion limits further growth. By using a congestion pricing system people will be forced to pay a toll to drive to and through the city of London in order to help discourage the build up of congestion . Since February 2003, motorist driving through central London between the hours of 7 am and 6:30 pm during the weekdays are required to pay 8 Euros. Since the enacting of the congestion pricing system in London, traffic entering the original charging zones, marked by signs (see above image), remains 21% lower than pre-charge levels, there has been a 6% increase in bus passengers during charging hours, and 137 million Euros have been raised in the 2007/08 financial year alone according to the Transport for London website. All revenue created by the congestion pricing system is invested back in London’s transportation infrastructure to help better accommodate London’s future population. These numbers prove that congestion pricing can help discourage the use of automobiles and help encourage the use of more sustainable means of transportation while generating a sufficient source of transportation revenue.
With London’s congestion pricing system keeping travelers out of environmentally unfriendly automobiles, London’s efficient and clean double-deck bus lines help get pedestrians from point A to point B at reasonable prices. Compared to the buses used in Los Angeles, London’s double-deck buses seem to be manufactured by Rolls Royce. London’s double-deck buses are waste free, graffiti free, are equipped with two wide doors to expedite loading and unloading time, along with an Oyster card sensor to expedite the time it takes riders to pay their fare. Upon entering the bus in London every rider pays their fare of two Euros before taking their seats. The other benefit of using double-deck buses in London is that double-deck buses take up less space than the regular elongated buses used in Los Angeles, which further alleviates congestion problems during peak driving hours.
Compared to London, Paris too has clean and efficient mass transit systems that allow Parisian travelers t0 get to and from their destinations by sustainable modes of transportation. While getting around Paris is extremely easy even for the non-French speaking traveler, what really stands out in Paris is the amount of public space allocated to the pedestrian. In 2001 Paris enacted a new Transportation Master Plan in order to reduce car traffic, improve public transit, and encourage walking and biking as important modes of urban transportation. Since 2001, Paris has been able "to increase its city’s public health and air quality, foster accessibility and social justice, boost the local economy, and to make the city more beautiful and enjoyable to live in,” by giving public space back to pedestrians, public transport, and bicycles. By re-allocating public space from the private automobile back to the pedestrian, Paris has enabled itself to become a pedestrian-oriented city, and therefore more sustainable. With more public space allocated to the pedestrian, Parisian commuters have more space to walk and bike, and are not stuck without a car. Since enacting the new Transportation Master Plan, across Paris, sidewalks have been widened, bikes lanes striped, trees have been planted, and there are currently around 200 miles of dedicated bike lanes in Paris. (See the separate automobile street, bike lane, and pedestrian walk way above). With all the public space allocated for the pedestrian in Paris, sustainable practice programs such as the Vélib bike-sharing program have been able to thrive within the city.
Since July 15, 2007 Paris has offered its citizens affordable public bikes to travel around the city. Around 20,000 Vélib bicycles are available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, and can be rented from one of the, 450 self-service rental stations placed conveniently around Paris. Renting a Vélib bike is relatively cheap, which makes using these bikes even more attractive than travelling by automobile. While one may be charged 150 Euros if the bike is not returned with twenty-four hours, the first half hour of renting a Vélib bike is free, with minimal charges after the first thirty minutes. The Vélib bicycle sharing program has been highly successful in Paris. In the first year the 2.1 million Parisian residents have made 27.5 million trips on Vélib bicycles, which is around 120,000 trips a day. While Los Angeles currently has around 320 miles of bike routes throughout its city, these bike routes are under utilized for they are unsafe and are not separated from dangerous, fast-paced automobiles, like they are in Paris. By following Paris’ lead by reclaiming public space for pedestrians and bike-users, more Los Angelinos may be willing to ride their bicycles to and from daily commutes like the Parisians, and in conclusion become more sustainable.