WR & Howe: Fighting Climate Change by Rethinking Transportation

For too long we’ve gorged on carbon and now it’s coming back to haunt us like a bad burrito. Climate change is already rearing its ugly head and changing our world in ways that affect the quality of our lives. The upside is that we can prevent a little heartburn from progressing to irreparable cardiovascular damage.

To fight climate change, we need to go on a carbon diet. In Waterloo Region that means we need to ditch our fossil fuel powered cars. According to ClimateActionWR , half of our local carbon footprint is from our transportation choices.

The good news is that if we do so by moving from car centred cities to people centred cities, our overall quality of life improves including our physical and mental health. That’s without even considering how we benefit from a healthier world that avoids the worst of climate change.

So that means doing more than switching out our gas powered cars for electric ones. While I hope we’ll see mass adoption of electric cars in the near future, they won’t eliminate congestion on our roads or other ill effects such as disconnecting from each other as people.

In a people centred city, transportation brings us together and helps us connect with each other and our built community. That’s why it is so great to see the upcoming launch of the LRT and the concurrent public transit improvements particularly the expansion of iXpress routes.

Making public transit more attractive is about more than making it more efficient. It provides us with the opportunity to create public spaces that are real people places which are truly accepting of everyone and where you don’t need to spend money to enjoy it. We also need to create “sticky streets,” that attract people and encourage them to linger. Food trucks, patios, having frequent entrances and being able to see inside buildings accomplish that.

A people centred city is a walkable city. People need to be able to walk to buy milk and meet other everyday needs. They also need to feel safe and secure. That includes being able to get out of your home in winter even if you face mobility challenges or have young kids in strollers.

In a people centred city, people on bikes are not competing with cars for road space. They have physically separated lanes that are a priority to keep clear of leaves or snow. Build them and people will come because they encourage people to ride without feeling a need to be a road warrior. You will see more kids riding bikes to get to more places. Parents will no longer equate riding a bike as playing chicken with tonnes of steel.

When we choose active forms of transportation, we’ll greet each other more often and give each other the finger less often. Improved connections improve our social cohesion. We become happier.

We are also healthier as a result of regular exercise.

So like stepping on a scale may motivate us to go on a diet, climate change can motivate us to make better choices for how we get around. We’ll not only reduce our carbon footprint but feel better and live in a happier community.

To help get you started or consider improvements, come on out to MovingWR on March 25. From 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. at Kitchener City Hall, you can learn more about how easy it is to make different transportation choices that improve your life, our community and our world.