Can energy awareness help improve Bermuda's traffic problems?
“Our romance with cars, begun with enthusiasm more than 100 years ago, has in fact become a very troubled entanglement. Today's relationship with the automobile inflicts upon us pollution, noise, congestion, sprawl, big expenses, injury, and even death. Yet we continue to live with cars at a growing cost to ourselves and the environment.” - Katie Alvord, author of ‘Divorce Your Car! : Ending the Love Affair with the Automobile'
Whether we realise it or not, traffic congestion creates a strong negative perception of the Island for both locals and tourists alike.
This means that by cutting the amount of road traffic on our roads we not only feel better about the place in which we live, but we are also giving our economy a boost in the form of tourist dollars.
In 1950, four years after privately owned automobiles were first allowed in Bermuda, there were just over 7,000 registered motor vehicles on the Island. Just ten years later, this number had more than doubled to about 18,800 vehicles.
Between 1960 and 1998, the number of vehicles increased by 7 percent per year. Since 1998 there has actually been a slight decrease in the number of vehicles on Bermuda's roads, totaling roughly 50,000 the majority of these vehicles being cars.
According to the Energy White Paper, 47 percent of all residents use private cars as their primary means of transportation and many of these cars transport only a single individual. This “car culture” has resulted in an increase in travel time as well as severe congestion of Bermuda roads, which has, in turn, led to increased risk of injury for all road users including drivers, motorcyclists, bicyclists and pedestrians.
Private cars transporting only a single person are also the least efficient mode of transportation. With the rising cost of fuel prices and the current economic climate, this lifestyle will become less and less economically viable.
As road transportation is the second highest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Bermuda, causing 26 percent of total emissions, a main focus of the Department of Energy is to reduce the transportation emissions by at least 30 percent between 2008 and 2020.
To achieve this goal the Government will work toward the establishment of minimum efficiency standards for vehicles imported into the Island, which means imported vehicles will need to travel farther on less fuel to make it into the local market. This will help save money on ever increasing fuel costs as well as reduce emissions and improve energy security with a reduced dependence on the importation of fossil fuels.
Fuel efficiency is the number of miles per gallon that a specific make and model of vehicle can achieve. This information is crucial to helping people make the best decision when purchasing a new vehicle. However some auto retailers do not routinely display this information. Government plans to increase consumer awareness of fuel efficiency information through an increase in education and by requiring auto retailers to clearly display this information on all products.
We will work toward using means such as licensing fees to encourage more efficient/lower emission means of transportation, possibly by raising licensure on gas-guzzlers.
This will help consumers make the best decision for themselves (as well as for Bermuda) when purchasing a new vehicle.
In line with current customs tariff incentives that encourage the importation of more efficient vehicles such as motorcycles and electric cars, future incentives will incorporate the most up-to-date vehicle technology with regards to efficiency. For example, even though many electric vehicles' purchase cost is often higher than similar sized conventional vehicles, the duty exemption may allow them to be offered here in Bermuda at competitive prices.
Carpooling offers a simple and effective way to use fuel resources efficiently, reduces traffic congestion, and encourages community cohesiveness. To encourage carpooling, the Government will initiate a prolonged public education campaign and take steps to develop carpooling programmes.
Although they are one of the most fuel-efficient modes of transportation, achieving 60 to 80 miles per gallon, only 16 percent of residents reported using motorcycles as their primary form of transportation. Other advantages of motorcycle transport include lower purchase and maintenance costs, lower duty and licensing fees, less expensive insurance and free parking.
The most fuel-efficient mode of transportation is and always will be pedal biking and walking. Not only are these two forms of transportation free, they also produce virtually zero emissions and have numerous health benefits.
As Bermudians convert to smaller and cheaper forms of transportation, they will not only be helping reduce pressure on their pocket books, they will also be helping Bermuda to become a safer, healthier, more efficient nation.
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