The Environment's Outlook On Urbanisation Through Time: Part II



The Implications of Personal Car Ownerships


Travelling in personal vehicles has become more common throughout the years, resulting in a growth of car ownership. Previously, at the early stages of the automotive industry, owning a car would be an indicator of high social status. However, now that cars are more accessible and affordable, in many cultures, car ownership has become a convention and a necessity.


However, car ownership growth has impacted the climate through the emitted pollutants of petrol and diesel cars (World Health Organisation. 2021; Blaga and Eckl. 2017). The increase of road vehicles now poses a threat to an already depleted climate, as road transport contributes to 20% of CO2 emissions, Greenhouse Gasses (GHG) and Particulate Matter (PM), contributing to climate change. According to the Mayor of London (2018), PM emissions in the UK capital are mainly caused by road traffic with exhaust emissions and tyre and brake wear being the main sources.


Further to environmental effects, road congestion significantly adds to these negative consequences. In megacities such as London and Los Angeles, ground traffic pollution from congested city roads can prove to have a harmful effect on human health. ‘Nitrogen dioxide, originating in traffic fumes, is the main precursor for ground-level ozone causing major respiratory problems and leading to premature death,’ the European Commission noted in a press release (2014).


Therefore, there seems to be an urgent need for more sustainable and restorative transport solutions.


While existing public transport means are helpful in getting people around, not all shared transportation is sustainable and environmentally harmless.

Source: Tom Page, edited, CC BY-SA 2.0



Changes in individual needs


However, trends can be seen where citizens of urban areas are deciding against car ownership. This is largely driven by the improvement of alternative public transport, such as the underground or buses, as they have become significantly more convenient and cheaper than owning a car, especially when considering parking restrictions and fuel costs.


This form of shared mobility is, arguably, more sustainable as it can carry a larger capacity of people at lower overall emissions, reducing congestion. However, as long as the vehicles run on petrol or diesel and cause tyre and brake wear on roads, they still harm our environment. Therefore, to heal our planet simply using public transport is not enough.


On the contrary, people in rural areas require a car in order to get to work or the shops, since public transport is unavailable. So, car ownership in these regions is still growing and starting to mirror the pollution issues of cities.



Our Response


Since recognising the harmful impact of air pollution, leading industries, city planners and governments are coming together to tackle the imposing climate issues and environmental impacts. It remains a continuous and ongoing effort, as can be seen by the positive change in air quality from the early 18th century to the 21st century (Ritchie.H, 2017).



A healthy transport systems requires a number of key stakeholders collaborating to deliver the global sustainability and net-zero promises.

Source: The Health Foundation


The solution has not yet been found, however we are on our way to improving human influence for the better one step at a time. The proactivity of individuals to take responsibility for their actions has since increased, due to the increase in education and knowledge on the matter.


The development of alternative and renewable power sources, such as electricity or hydrogen fuel cells, will provide much cleaner transport. Meanwhile, the problems of tyre and brake wear could be reduced by moving some traffic into the skies, such as by implementing Advanced Air Mobility (AAM).


If integrated well to complement other sustainable future modes of transportation, AAM has the potential to improve travel efficiency, enhance connectivity and simplify transport routes, reducing traffic congestion.