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Any form of transportation with a ‘sustainable’ tag relies on renewable or regenerated energy instead of dwindling energy resources such as fossil fuels. (Michael Evans, 2011) There is also another form of definition which includes contribution to social and economic aspects without having any negative effect to the environment. (European Commission, 2001a, 2006; Joint Expert Group on Transport and Environment, 2000; SUMMA, 2005; Whitmarsh & Wietschel, 2006)


In Richard Smith’s lecture about sustainable transport, he discussed about where should transportation be positioned. He stated that, transportation has a close relationship with physical activity, access, health, planning, environmental quality and community safety cohesion. He also explained what makes a transport system sustainable. This consists of limiting the amount of emission and waste within the planet’s ability to absorb them, using renewable resources at or below their regeneration rates, using non-renewable resources at or below the rates of development of its substitutes, reducing noise pollution so as to minimise the impact on land. (Council of the EU, 2001)

Type of sustainable transport

Ultra-low emission vehicle (ULEV) – This covers electric vehicles which use electricity instead of fossil fuel as their power source. The government is investing over £500 million to support the shift to ULEVs. The government also has an ambition to achieve a zero emission by car before the year of 2050. (Department for Transport, 2015)

Public transport – This accounts for over 50% of world consumption of fossil fuels, where total CO2 emission by train only accounts for 2% of it. Thus, trains could be claimed as the most sustainable way of travel over a long distance. (Schwarz, 2011)

Figure 1. Carbon dioxide emission by different types of transport

Figure 2. Carbon dioxide emission by different types of transport

Cycling – This can be classified as a form of sustainable transportation not only because it reduces CO2 emission, it also helps to alleviate health issues in the public. Assume one switches from driving to cycling and travesl four miles per day, he can reduce half a tonne of CO2 emission per year. If the amount of cyclist in UK is doubled by switching from cars, the amount of CO2 that could be reduced is the same amount where all London-to-Scotland air travels are converted to rail. (Visser, 2013)

Pedestrian – Walking is always being forgotten while we focus on transportation. Walking is the most sustainable way of transportation because there is no CO2 emission, it costs nothing and could almost be done by everyone.

Effecting environmental stressors

The most obvious outcome is that the air quality in the city could be improve if sustainable transportation are being promoted and used, since the major objective of sustainable transportation is to reduce the amount of harmful gas emission. These harmful gases will damage our ozone layer and cause it to become thinner, which adds up to global warming. By using sustainable transports, the process of global warming could be slowed down. (UNECE)

Figure 3. Global warming

Other pollution problems such as water and noise pollution could be reduced as well. For example, chemicals or other hazardous particulates produced by cars from combustion fuel will bring an impact on hydrological conditions and water quality. All kinds of undesirable sound are categorised as noise. The accumulative voice generates by vehicles could have gone as high as 65 decibels. Human physical and psychological well-being will be affected if there is a long term exposure to high noise levels. (Rodrigue.J.P, 2017)

Figure 4. Noise pollution

Making a city into a walk-able city by reducing the amount of vehicles and increasing pedestrian access does not only improve the economic and environmental issues, it also reduces the amount of traffic injuries and death. (Eurostat Statistic Explained, 2015)

The benefit of cycling and walking in the city outweighs the negative effects of air pollution on health. The risk of having diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and several cancers could be reduce by regular physical activity. If everyone starts to cycle instead of using vehicles, air pollution could be reduced while the benefit of cycling and walking will be more prominent. (Levey, 2016)

Case Study

Denmark achieved its no.1 position in world energy council’s energy sustainability report. (State of Green, 2016) Denmark is very good at sustainability, especially in its transportation area. When you ask tourists their first impression of Denmark, most of them will mention Danish like to ride bicycles. Denmark is one of the countries which has the most cyclist in the world. This cycling culture has more than 100 years of history. Denmark has a total of more than 10,000km of cycle road. In Denmark only 1% of the population do not know how to ride at the age of 10 and up to 96% of the people think that it is safe for children to cycle to school. (State of Green)

Figure 5. Cycling in Denmark

Schwarz.H (2011) Improving the sustainability of transport – The rail sector as a case study
Smith.R. (2016). Sustainable Transportation, [Lecture]



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