This issue we’re mainly banging on about cycling and the thriving local community that rolls with it. But while they’re probably the greenest way to get about town - and often the quickest - bikes aren’t the only option to go places while keeping your emissions down. Environment Editor Adam Pickering takes a look at Nottingham’s other travel options, and weighs up their green credentials…
Nottingham’s often cited as having one of the best public transport systems in the country, and it boasts pretty good green credentials too. A 2020 study by Uswitch.com ranked ours as the third-most sustainable transport system out of fifteen major UK cities - just behind Liverpool, with London up top. So, let’s have a look at what we’ve got on offer and how each travel option stacks up…
Nottingham City Transport already operated the world’s largest fleet of biogas double-decker buses, and they’ve recently expanded it to 143. The existing fleet has made a pretty sizable contribution to improving Nottingham’s air quality, preventing over 26,000 tonnes of CO2 being emitted, as well as reducing nitrogen oxide emissions (with their much greater greenhouse effect) by 180kg.
Biogas fuels, while still creating some emissions, are created in a renewable circular process that captures methane and other gases that our waste and agriculture produces, turning them instead into a relatively clean fuel. NCT tells us their biogas “is produced naturally through anaerobic digestion using food waste, farm waste and sewage. It is the methane emitted during this process which is eventually used for turning into biogas (fuel) for our buses.”
Trentbarton have made steps to make their buses cleaner too, namely by adding fuel-saving technology to their 330 buses that helps monitor usage towards cutting emissions, while they’ve been introducing more “ultra low emission certified buses” to their fleet. Eco Champion Matt Newman told reporters, “Over the past seven years, Trentbarton has spent £20 million on greener buses and is exploring zero emission buses for the future.”
Trams are one of the best ways to electrify our transport and move away from fossil fuels, as they don’t require ecologically costly lithium mining to make loads of whopping great batteries that currently tend to need replacing after they’ve completed their fairly short lifecycle. It’s also good to know that Nottingham’s trams are powered entirely by renewable energy.
Local operator Tramlink often voice their support for Carbon Neutral Nottingham 2028, recently launching a branded tram supporting the initiative, which is currently gliding around Notts. Unveiling the tram, Tim Hesketh says, “Nottingham is leading the charge in tackling climate change so this newly wrapped tram will create a ‘green symbol’ of the city’s clean growth ambitions.”
Nottingham’s controversial e-scooter trial has generally been judged by the industry to be a success. Operator Wind UK has claimed a million rides over the year to December 2021 across Nottingham and Derby. Industry blog Zag says each scooter is ridden an average of five times a day - the highest e-scooter usage numbers they’ve seen, at around five times the London usage rate. But there’s new scepticism about the environmental benefits of e-scooters, as a study at the University of Nottingham analysing their usage has raised concerns about whether they replace the right journeys.
Dr Mike Clifford, Associate Professor at the Faculty of Engineering, tells us: “Only 10% of people surveyed said that they would have used a private car if they hadn’t had access to an e-scooter, and 15% would have used a taxi.” However, the rest would have walked (34%), used the bus (16%), tram (15%) or cycled (10%); so, Mike continues, “The net result is that the provision of e-scooters actually increases the CO2 emissions compared to the modes of transport that the scooters replace.”
But if you are using e-scooters to replace car journeys then you’re probably still onto a winner. In their defence, Nottingham City Council have stated that this pioneering scheme costs the taxpayer nothing, and new, high-tech LINK-model scooters replacing the original yellow gear-grinders are designed to be safer.
Lime is the world’s largest shared electric vehicle provider with e-bikes and e-scooters in more than 250 cities and 30 countries. Lime launched in the UK in 2018 and now runs successful shared e-bike and e-scooter services in London, Greater Manchester (e-scooter only), Derby and Milton Keynes. Not to be left out, they've now landed in Nottingham.
With bikes powered on 100% renewable energy, 1 in 4 of Lime rides replaces a car journey, and they aim to help transform transport for residents of Nottingham providing a service that is green, affordable, and safe. Lime charges a fixed rate (£1.00) to unlock an e-bike and then 19p per minute to ride. Average journeys cost between £3.50 and £4.50.
How are taxis green, you might wonder? Well, for one, it’s a form of car-resource sharing which is good, but they’re also a lot greener when they’re electric. Nottingham’s got a fair few of these already, with 54 electric Hackney Carriages as of June 2022 - the largest operating fleet outside of London.
We’re also home to the UK’s first trial of wireless-charging taxis, funded to the tune of £930,000 by the Government’s Office for Zero-Emission Vehicles. These mean drivers can charge easily while they wait for their next customer. Although taxis aren’t a form of transport many of us can afford to take on a regular basis, it’s good to know that greener options are increasingly out there.
There are plenty of routes and modes of transport around Nottingham, and the smarter we are about using them to best minimise our emissions while getting where we need to go, the better. Of course, the most active option is always going to be the best for our health - so get walking, or on yer bike, if you can.
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