The city of Berkeley is studying the idea of making Telegraph Avenue a walking and biking only street. Telegraph is the hub of UC Berkeley’s campus that holds the campus community together, with plenty of restaurants and things to do. Not only does it provide elements of a college town community in a larger city, but it provides an area for students to socialize with each other and enjoy life outside of academia.
Recent conversations have been centered around making Telegraph Avenue car-free in order to reduce traffic collisions and congestion and increase the cultural vitality of the area. There are a few points of contention around the change as concerns have been raised about the inconvenience for drivers of Berkeley in working around the closure. Proponents, however, believe that it would boost the ability for people to feel safe when walking on the streets.
If you have ever walked down Telegraph, you know that it can get busy and intense with cars zipping down left and right. However, it is also a hub for public transportation, with a plethora of bus stops for students to get to and from campus from a variety of directions. For visitors to campus, parking in and around Telegraph is extremely important, and the change could potentially cause confusion amongst how to best access the area.
The city of Berkeley hasn’t talked much about the sustainability of this transition, as the area is a small radius. However, this change could spark a greater movement in the Bay Area to become more car-free, which would help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and boost the ability to interact with one’s neighboring community.
Many cities across the globe have transformed their cities to become increasingly walker-friendly in order to minimize traffic congestion as well as become more sustainably minded. Some renowned walker-friendly cities include Oslo, Amsterdam and Copenhagen. In order to understand how each of these cities has made the transition and the potential benefits, we can take a closer look into the inner workings of each.
Oslo is the capital of Norway, situated in the eastern region of the country, and is a major hub of innovation in regard to the environment and transportation. A few years ago I had the opportunity to travel to Norway and visited Oslo for a few days. The city very much fits its description of a sustainable haven, with modern buildings intertwined with older architecture and lots of walking and biking trails.
Oslo is a major proponent of carbon neutrality, trying to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 95% in 2030. The Oslo Urban Ecology Program is at the forefront of designing its city in a sustainable way by adopting a long-term approach to city planning. This organization promotes reducing energy consumption, transitioning to hybrid vehicles, increasing walking and biking and promoting waste reduction.
Amsterdam is located in the northern region of Europe, in the Netherlands. There are around 320 miles of biking-friendly trails in Amsterdam alone, which makes alternative transportation extremely accessible and convenient. It is the world’s 2nd most bike-friendly city, making citizens extremely comfortable with using this means of transport as it is a common cultural element.
The city of Amsterdam has pledged to reduce its carbon emissions by 55% in 2030 and 95% in 2050. The city is determined to move to 100% sustainable energy and become carbon neutral by 2030. Some of the ways they will be achieving these goals include limiting polluting traffic, making business and public buildings more fuel efficient and maximizing solar power.
Copenhagen is the capital of Denmark and is renowned for its Scandinavian culture, architecture and food. The country of Denmark is a leader in sustainability amongst the European Union and plans to be carbon neutral by 2025. To do so, all buses have transitioned from diesel to electric power, there are canals for travel by electric boats and many buildings are eco-certified.
Many of Copenhagen’s restaurants use organically grown ingredients that are harvested not too far from the city center to reduce carbon emissions from transportation. They even have their own waste-to-energy plant right in the city center called Copenhill, which features a ski slope and a hiking and climbing trail on top.
A recent study revealed that 25 of the world’s largest cities produce 52% of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions. Although San Francisco is not in the top 25, it still is an extremely large city and makes a huge contribution to carbon emissions. The more inspiration we can take from cities like Oslo, Amsterdam and Copenhagen, the sooner we can try and reach net zero emissions.