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Mainstreaming walking as low carbon urban mobility to improve air quality in the cities - Featuring: Case study of Kitakyushu, Japan

In 2018 Clean Air International Forum October 19-20, 2018, Gyeonggi Province, South Korea

More than half of the world’s population currently lives in cities. And half of this, lives in Asia. And from all of these people living in the world’s cities, more than 80% are exposed to poor air quality and experiencing air pollution, especially in Asia. This air pollution is mainly related to the global phenomenon of GHG emission, which mostly comes from urban transportation. In fact, Asian cities are mostly experiencing: traffic jam, air pollution, and uncontrolled growth of private vehicles. A bit more specific phenomenon happens in some parts of Asia with an enormous number of motorcycle users which is also responsible for growing proportion of the total air pollution. Meanwhile, transportation in the Japanese cities emits around 20% of the total CO2 emissions. In short, most of the cities are depended on the High Carbon Urban Mobility which causes: extensive carbon emission, air pollution and traffics, fossil-based energy exploitation, and urban sprawling which creates the MVP: Motorized Vehicular People. Thus the idea is of course to introduce the Low Carbon Urban Mobility which can respond to the current issues on air pollution. Here I would like to introduce the Teitan and Black Teitan, the mascots of Kitakyushu City, which resemble this contrast and the idea of transformation.
Low Carbon Urban Mobility is basically promoting the non-motorized transportation such as walking and cycling which are economical and eco-friendly ways of commuting. It boosts tourism and fosters good city image. When we try to implement Low Carbon Urban Mobility for example by improving walking condition and environment, we could also avoid traffic congestion, conserve nature, and improve public health and living quality. However at first we need to promote the sustainable mobility paradigm. In Japanese traditional cities, the effective way to improve the quality of urban space is by improving the streets (alleyways), where many social activities take place. However the streets now are rather different. Nowadays the streets are mostly occupied with motorized vehicles such as car and motorbike. You can see here in this chart that private vehicles take mostly the proportion of transport modes while walking and cycling take roughly 20% in average. In Kitakyushu, walking was only counted for 7.8% in 2005. Like other cities now, Kitakyushu is experiencing motorization which contributes to GHG emissions from the transportation sector. In order to address this issue, Kitakyushu City already developed the Kitakyushu Environmental Capital Comprehensive Transport Strategy in 2008. Within this strategy, there are several development components and some are related to walking such as: active mobility system, parking system, shifting transport mode, and Transit Oriented Development (TOD).
There are mainly three challenges in promoting walking. First, the fact that private car is still the main urban mobility needs to be contemplated. For longer distance, the use of car is unavoidable, yet it means that public transportation still needs to be promoted. Flexible and timely mobility are the two main requirements of urban life. Therefore for shorter distance as well, these two requirements need to be reflected for promoting walking in order to suit to the urban life, competing with the motorized vehicle. Another challenge is how to create a walkable neighbourhood. In this context, it means the residential areas with clean air and also connections to other public activity hubs. Therefore at last, land-use diversity is also needed.