London and Paris edged out Guatemala City, Guatemala; Eugene, Oregon; and Pereira, Colombia to win the 2008 Sustainable Transport Award. These cities were nominated for the 4th annual international honor for enhancing the sustainability and livability of their community or region by adopting innovative transportation strategies that lessen the impact of climate change by reducing transportation greenhouse and air pollution emissions.
Paris has revolutionized bike sharing with its individualized mass transit system called Vélib (“Freedom Bikes”). People pay a low fee to use the bikes from one of the many bike parking stations located in the city and they can return the bikes to any station they wish. By the end of 2007, Vélib had more than 1,200 stations and 15,000 bikes in the system. “Freedom bikes” in Paris fill the streets, proving more popular than anticipated. As of November 2007, more than 11 million trips have been made on these bikes.
Vélib is just one component of Paris’ new mobility plan that uses transportation innovation to revitalize community life in public spaces. Paris is prioritizing pedestrians by renovating public squares and plazas, widening sidewalks, and adding new landscaping and raised crosswalks. As of 2008 Paris had built more than 314 kilometers (195 miles) of bike lanes, and bicycling has increased 48 percent during the five previous years. Three corridors of the new bus rapid transit system also opened in 2007. These improvements led to a decrease in private vehicle traffic by 20 percent and a nine percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.
London is the largest city to adopt congestion pricing and its success has inspired cities around the globe. In 2007, London expanded on the success of its groundbreaking 2003 congestion pricing plan with a doubling of the congestion zone, increased fees for motor vehicles, and new city-wide emission-based tolls that are spurring more rapid adoption of cleaner, fuel efficient vehicles.
Prior to the charge, London drivers spent 50 percent of their time in traffic jams, costing the city between £2–4 million ($4–8 million) every week. As of 2007 congestion had dropped 21 percent, and approximately 70,000 fewer vehicles entered the extended congestion pricing zone daily, reducing global warming carbon dioxide emissions by 16 percent. Each year more than £123 million ($243 million) are raised for public transport improvements. Bus ridership has increased 45 percent as people are switching to bus transportation in London because their travel time has decreased due to congestion pricing. Bike use had increased by 43 percent by 2007. And London’s emission-based toll incentives provide additional environmental benefits.
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