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As the sources and severity of noise pollution continue to grow, there is a need for new approaches to reduce exposure. This Future Brief looks at the complex and pervasive problem of noise pollution: a problem with no single solution, requiring a combination of short-, medium- and long-term approaches and careful consideration of the nature of the noise source.
No cities are yet fully car-free, but many have managed or plan to restrict access to city centres for privately owned combustion-engine passenger cars. Health benefits will come from reduced traffic-related air pollution, less noise and lower levels of heat emitted from vehicles. The greatest health benefit, however, is likely to come from increased physical activity as people walk, cycle and move to catch public transport, according to a review of the potential health benefits of car-free cities.
Researchers have estimated that, annually, almost 3 000 deaths (i.e. 20% of mortality) in Barcelona, Spain, are premature, and would be preventable if residents lived in urban environments that met international exposure recommendations for physical activity, air pollution, noise, heat and access to green spaces. The results emphasise the need to reduce motorised traffic, promote active and public transport, and provide adequate green space to encourage exercise and mitigate the impacts of environmental hazards in cities.
Lower socioeconomic status is generally associated with poorer health, and both air and noise pollution contribute to a wide range of other factors influencing human health. But do these health inequalities arise because of increased exposure to pollution, increased sensitivity to exposure, increased vulnerabilities, or some combination? This In-depth Report presents evidence on whether people in deprived areas are more affected by air and noise pollution — and suffer greater consequences — than wealthier populations.
Airports are associated with air and noise pollution and may, therefore, reduce the quality of life of local people. This study assessed the link between aircraft noise and subjective wellbeing, using data from 17 English airports. The authors conclude that living under flight paths has a negative effect on people’s overall wellbeing, equivalent to around half of the effect of being a smoker for some indicators.
People who live in the most ‘activity-friendly’ neighbourhoods do up to 1.5 hours more physical activity a week than those in the least supportive neighbourhoods. This is according to a new international study which measured levels of exercise — mainly walking for recreation or transport — in relation to the urban environment across 14 diverse cities. The results show how urban design — such as parks and local amenities — can promote healthy lifestyles which also bring environmental benefits, such as better air quality, through reduced car use.
Norway has the highest battery-electric vehicle market share of any country worldwide. A new study investigated the incentives that have persuaded consumers to purchase electric vehicles in Norway, revealing that up-front price reductions (such as exemptions from purchase tax) are the most powerful incentives.
Climate change will have major consequences for transport networks, especially those located on coastlines. This study assessed the impact of projected sea-level rise on a vulnerable stretch of railway line on the coast of South West England. The authors say their semi-empirical modelling method could provide guidance to policymakers worldwide.
Underground trains are among the most widely used public transport systems in cities worldwide. A study investigating the chemical composition and source of particles in Barcelona subway stations found that a new station design, with sliding doors that separate the platform from the tunnel and good ventilation, reduced the concentration of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) by over 50% compared with older station designs.
Due to regulation on sulphur emissions, liquefied natural gas (LNG) has increased in use as a maritime fuel. This study measured exhaust gases from a ship with dual-fuel engines running on LNG and marine gas oil (MGO). Although NOX and CO2 emissions were lower for LNG compared to MGO, hydrocarbon and carbon monoxide emissions were higher. The authors say future work should reconsider the climate impact of LNG.
International regulation does not address non-CO2 emissions from aviation, despite their climate-warming effects. This study reports the findings of the AviClim research project, which investigated the feasibility of including CO2 and non-CO2 species in international protocols. Of several trading scenarios assessed, the authors found that a global emissions trading scheme for both kinds of emissions would be desirable in both environmental and economic terms.
Hydrocarbons are precursors to hazardous air pollutants including ozone and particulate matter. Hydrocarbons from diesel make up over 50% of all hydrocarbons in the air in London, a new study has found. The authors also estimate that they contribute up to half of total ozone production potential in London, and say future air quality control strategies must focus more on these pollutants.
Measurements of individual vehicle emissions are usually made in laboratory tests. In this study, researchers followed cars driving in real conditions to measure emissions of air pollutants, including black carbon and nitrogen oxides. The study shows that diesel cars contribute disproportionately to air pollution, and highlights the value of on-road measurements.
Long-distance travelling accounts for a significant number of miles travelled per person, but estimates of its greenhouse gas emissions are lacking. Using data from Belgium and the Netherlands, this study estimates that long-distance journeys account for 40–50% of total mileage and 50% of greenhouse gas emissions of all people transport in Western Europe.
Urban sustainability indicators are tools that allow planners, managers and policymakers to gauge the socio-economic and environmental impact of existing urban designs, infrastructures, policies, waste disposal systems, pollution and citizens’ access to services. They allow cities to monitor the success of sustainability interventions. This In-depth Report aims to provide local government actors and stakeholders with a concise guide to the best indicator tools currently available.
Carbon emissions from Dutch road networks could be reduced by almost a third if more innovative materials and processes were used, a new study suggests. Researchers assessed the potential benefits associated with 10 innovations in road construction and maintenance, and compared them to conventional materials and processes.
Animal-train collisions are an important cause of animal mortality. This study tested the ability of a device that emits natural warning calls to reduce risk of animals being hit by trains in central Poland. Animals, including roe deer (Capreolus capreolus), red fox (Vulpes vulpes) and brown hare (Lepus europaeus) escaped in most cases. The authors say the device is an effective means of risk reduction as it allows animals to escape train tracks earlier and more often.
Congestion charges are an effective means of reducing road traffic, but are often strongly opposed by the public. This study combined quantitative and qualitative methods to explore attitudes towards congestion charging in Spain, finding that opposition is reduced when revenues are spent on environmental improvements.
Every kilometre travelled by car incurs costs to the individual and society that are more than six times those of travelling by bicycle, a new study suggests. The researchers presented a cost-benefit analysis developed for Copenhagen, finding that cars resulted in costs of 0.50 €/km in comparison to 0.08 €/km for bikes.
Public subsidies are important in encouraging organisations to trial and expand electric vehicle fleets, according to new research. The study, based on interviews and reports from 17 organisations, found that the opportunity to test new technology was the most important factor in deciding to trial electric vehicles. However, some smaller independent companies chose not to expand their fleet because of the expense.
A test currently under development for certifying levels of vehicle emissions may not adequately represent real world driving conditions, a new study suggests. The authors measured emissions during the new Worldwide Light-Duty Test Cycle (WLTC) compared with those in existing driving cycles and highlighted areas where the test could be potentially improved.
Setting cycle and footpaths further back from the road can significantly lower the amount of air pollution that cyclists and pedestrians inhale, suggests new research. While wide gaps are not always practical, the study shows that even small increases in distance could substantially reduce the dose of pollution.
What drives people to behave in more environmentally friendly ways? A new study explores factors that affect Dutch motorists’ intentions to switch to electric vehicles. The authors found that they could reliably predict the intention to switch by applying a theoretical framework—Protection Motivation Theory—based on perceptions of the threat of environmental damage.
Bike share programmes appear to have successfully reduced private car use in Brisbane, Melbourne, Washington DC, Minnesota and London, suggests recent research. In London, however, high demand for vans to transport bicycles between docking stations may have increased overall motor vehicle use in the city.
Traffic pollution contributes to childhood obesity, a recent study concludes. In the US investigation of over 4 500 children, the researchers estimated that air pollution increased the body mass index (BMI) of 10-year olds in the most polluted areas of study by 0.4 units, compared to those in the least polluted areas. It is thought that pollution may have slowed the children’s metabolism.
Cyclists with pollution monitors and GPS trackers attached to their bicycles have produced detailed maps of Antwerp’s air quality, as part of a recent study. Their data show that a gap of just a few metres between cycle lanes and cars significantly reduces cyclists’ risk of inhaling high levels of ultrafine particle pollution.
Small, artificial wetlands can reduce river pollution by trapping soil and nutrients swept off agricultural land by rainfall, a recent study finds. The researchers recommend that they are used as a back-up option to soil management measures also designed to reduce runoff into rivers.
Congestion schemes can encourage people to adopt environmentally friendly behaviours more generally, a new study suggests. Researchers who surveyed car owners after the introduction of a congestion scheme in Stockholm found that after its introduction nearly half of people surveyed adopted greener behaviours such as conserving energy and water.
Motivation to practise fuel-efficient driving may be more influenced by environmental concerns than by financial benefits, research suggests. In promoting fuel efficiency, this survey of Dutch motorists highlights the power of providing feedback to drivers – both environmental and economic – on their behaviour.
Transport policies that produce physically segregated cycle lanes on main roads, combined with low-speed local streets, will boost numbers of cyclists and provide the best financial return on investment, new research suggests. Using Auckland, New Zealand as a case study the researchers showed that the economic benefits of this policy can outweigh the costs by more than 20 times.
The transition to a low-carbon transport system needs a coherent national policy framework that supports all its aspects, according to a review of transport and innovation policy in Finland. Its findings suggest that policy makers need to identify and remove contradictory policies that present barriers to achieving a greener transport system.
Local context may have more influence over public acceptance of restrictive policies, such as road tolls and parking fees, than factors such as age, gender or education, a new study suggests. The researchers analysed public reaction to Norwegian policies used to reduce car use and found that there were three aspects of local context that were particularly important: local urban development policies, sense of local identity, and public understanding of the problems.
Two shared electric car schemes, in Berlin and Paris, have been examined by a recent study. Although both schemes are progressive, Berlin's takes an 'inter-modal' approach to encouraging sustainable mobility, because it integrates electric cars into the wider public transport system. The scheme in Paris, however, focuses on cars as the main form of transport.
China does not export cars to Europe, yet it has adopted the Euro emissions standard for vehicles. A recent study argues this is because international standards can encourage foreign investors to share advanced technical knowledge with companies in developing and emerging economies – thus bringing a package of environmental and economic benefits. In China’s case, its car industry is now better prepared for future trade in a global market, thanks to this strategy.
Car use could be reduced through careful urban planning, according to the results of a new German study. By combining data on driving behaviour and high-resolution satellite imagery, the researchers show how patterns of land and car use are connected.
Better fuel economy, lower emissions and longer driving ranges are important factors for people considering the purchase of alternatively-powered vehicles (APVs), new research suggests. The German study also found that people would consider paying more for an APV if they could enjoy vehicle tax exemptions, free parking or bus lane access.
Investment in cycling initiatives, such as creating new cycle lanes or providing training, can increase the number of people who routinely cycle to work, a new large-scale study in the UK suggests. Town-wide cycling initiatives seemed to be particularly successful when they included workplace measures such as bike lockers, showers and cycle parking.
Factors influencing people's decisions about how they travel to work are highlighted in a new study on commuting in Europe. Key findings include: cycling rates increase with the length of a city's bicycle network and public transport use rises with a city's population and GDP per capita. Based on the findings, the researchers propose policy measures for reducing the number of car journeys.