The FINANCIAL -- (Tbilisi, Georgia) Planting trees, developing parks, installing solar panels or even constructing eco-friendly buildings are just a small part of what we could do to make our city environment greener. But taking into account that 90% of total emissions are made by transport in Tbilisi then you could easily imagine what impact the introduction of green/fuel efficient transport would have on the city en masse.
Although fuel efficient transport such as bicycles or motor-scooters have poor public perception in Tbilisi , worsening of the city’s air quality, which is already noticeable, needs to be addressed somehow. Therefore the development of bicycle lanes and tram lines is inevitable. This would cut reliance on public transportation, reduce CO² emissions, and simultaneously minimize greater petroleum usage that would lead to healthier people’s lifestyles in the end.
Retail petroleum prices have been rising steadily over the past few months reaching 2.30 GEL (1.30 USD) per litre last week, tracking crude oil prices as claimed by oil importers in Georgia.
The developments in the Middle East are also having greater impact on the rise of oil prices. Hence the cost of owning and operating vehicles is drastically increasing. At the same time people are also getting plagued by congested traffic and longer commute times in Tbilisi . The only alternative, that people in many developed countries of Central Europe/Asia have already chosen, is moving to bicycles or motor-scooters.
In Amsterdam bikes have overtaken cars’ usage. Studies showed that in the period 2005 to 2007 residents used their bicycle an average of 0.87 times a day and their car 0.84 times.
In Japan, a country with a population of roughly 128 million, people who own bicycles amount to about 90 million, or about two for every three Japanese. In addition approximately 11 million bicycles are sold in Japan every year. Young women in high heels, men in black suits and teenagers on cell phones all ride bikes. Even mothers are frequently using them to go shopping, taking their children to day care and then running errands.
Bicycle lanes in Japan are mainly between the road and sidewalk.
In 2009 Tokyo launched a public bike programme similar to ones found in many European cities in which bicycles are left in designated areas and people can pick them up and use them and drop them off in different designated areas. People who use the system in Tokyo have to pay a ¥1,000 registration fee and pay ¥100 for every 10 minutes of use.
A similar system could also work in Tbilisi once bicycle racks are installed all over the city. As Khvicha Sanaia from Tbilisi municipality transport division told The FINANCIAL, there’s an idea of building bicycle lanes in Tbilisi in the coming years although no precise plans exist yet regarding how that will be accomplished. “It will not be used solely for transportation purposes, but also for the development of bicycle tourism in Georgia,” he said.
“Specifically, we are currently administering a nationwide Fuel Economy Project as part of the Global Fuel Economy Initiative’s 50by50 campaign, which aims to reduce car emissions by 50% by 2050,” Humfrey Legge from Caucasus Environment NGO network (CENN) said.
CENN is holding an event on 22 April (Earth Day) at Europe House, to showcase fuel efficient cars on sale in Tbilisi .
“Fuel efficient transport such as bicycles and motorcycles have poor public perception in Tbilisi , this is compounded by a lack of infrastructure for these methods of transport. Unfortunately, without increased public interest in these methods of transport the Government is unlikely to invest in such infrastructure and without investment there will be little increased interest from the public,” he said.
“The Tbilisi Municipality should take the lead in green infrastructural initiatives in the city; however it’s essential that local populations, environmental civil society and local businesses are all involved through extensive consultations about any project,” claimed Legge.
“The development of bicycle lanes and tram lines in Tbilisi would have an extremely positive effect on the city for a number of reasons. Firstly these kinds of initiatives will ease congestion and facilitate cheap, easy travel within the city, increasing residents’ mobility.
Secondly, they will reduce environmental degradation as they support non-petrochemical forms of transport, simultaneously reducing CO² emissions and improving air quality in Tbilisi .
Finally, the construction of green transport routes will have highly beneficial effects on the local population’s health, encouraging exercise, reducing noise pollution and reducing the levels of harmful chemicals emitted from car exhausts,” noted Legge.
In Tbilisi fuel efficient cars are imported by several companies including Strada Motors which imports Fiat (Italian) automobiles, consuming between 4.5-5 litres per 100 km. As Tea Iremadze, Marketing Manager at Strada Auto told The FINANCIAL, such automobiles were introduced roughly two months ago and now over 20 units of them are sold. Their price ranges between 8.5-9 EUR according to Iremadze.
“It’s true that the depletion of global oil reserves, increasing insecurity in oil exporting countries and climate change all indicate rising gasoline prices over the coming years; however rising prices are not always enough to convince people to make green choices in their transport methods. To change attitudes in Tbilisi we have to offer viable, cheap, attractive alternatives to cars with low fuel efficiency,” said Legge.
“The first step towards a greener transport system in Tbilisi is development of traffic optimization. This includes infrastructural road expansion, as well as strategic traffic management and city-wide integrated transport policies.
The second step needs to be the installation of effective and accurate monitoring and enforcement systems for air quality, imported cars and fuel quality. Once authorities can understand the exact level of pollution in Tbilisi appropriate targets can be set and enforced accordingly.
Other steps include the expansion and improvement of public transports systems, phased increases in fuel taxes, public information campaigns about green transport and government subsidies for fuel efficient and hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs),” concluded Legge.
You can join the Tbilisi Bike Lane Initiative on: www.facebook.com/TbilisiBike