Air pollution and traffic congestion plague cities around the world. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
In San Franciscoa number of environmental initiatives encourage green habits, increase urban greenery and make the city a best space for everyone.
“San Francisco believes in climate action as a whole, people care,” says Mayor of London Breed.
“So it’s not like you have to fight for (a climate-friendly policy). You just have to see whether or not you can implement it, if it’s realistic.
From “outdoor living rooms” and cycle paths to major investments in renewable energy, this american city relentlessly pursues climate action.
What are outdoor lounges?
Many cities are dominated by cars, with pedestrians being pushed to the sides of the road by wide parking areas.
But restaurants in San Francisco are reclaiming some of that dead space. Under Mayor Breed’s leadership, the city adopted “parklets”. These small outdoor spaces – built on former car parks – have been transformed into outdoor eating and dining spaces.
The idea took off during the pandemic, when fear of disease transmission drove diners outside.
As part of the city’s “shared spaces” program, they have now become permanent. More than 1,000 of them dot the city streets, transform dead space into thriving outdoor hubs.
“A long time ago, before the pandemic, it was very difficult to get a parklet because everyone was fighting against the removal of parking,” says Mayor Breed.
“[But] they’ve become a big hit…the restaurants personalize them, it’s become part of the culture, it’s very European.
“When I’m sitting outside, people always come and say, ‘Hey, mayor! “…He’s also a community builder.”
Why is San Francisco investing in bike lanes?
Parklets reduce the number of parking spaces in the city centre. But with 764 km of bike paths, San Francisco is one of the most bike-friendly cities in the United States.
“There are various reasons why people need Vehicles… I don’t think we’ll ever be in a completely car-free city,” Mayor Breed said.
“But we can reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by doing different means of transport easier to use.
“We have electric bicycles, we have scooters, we have protected cycle paths and pedestrian and habitable zones, we do our The public transport system easier to use.
In 2019, Mayor Breed pledged to double the rate of bike lane construction in the city from an average of five miles (eight km) per year to 20 miles (32 km) over the next two years .
This is great news for the planet. The transport sector accounts for a quarter of global fuel-related greenhouse gas emissions, with half coming from private vehicles, including passenger cars and trucks.
If everyone in the world rode a bike on average 2.6 kilometers each per dayannual global carbon emissions would decrease by 686 million tonnes.
But it’s not just good for the planet – Cycling also helps ward off chronic diseases associated with a sedentary lifestyle.
People who cycle to work have a 45% lower risk of developing cancer and 46% lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
How is San Francisco increasing the use of renewable energy?
San Francisco aims to become carbon neutral by 2045 and is investing heavily in clean energy.
In 2019, the city passed a law requiring its largest private commercial buildings to operate at 100% renewable electricity. By 2024, commercial buildings over 250,000 square feet must run on renewable sources. By 2030, this requirement will extend to all commercial buildings over 50,000 square feet.
More and more inhabitants are also turning to renewable energies, thanks to the CleanPowerSF program.
A non-profit program run by the City public services commission, CleanPowerSF aggregates customer energy demand and purchases clean power at competitive rates on behalf of those customers.
The Bayview Hunters-point community – one of the first to be invited to participate – jumped at the chance.
“You could opt out or stay in the program, and a huge percentage – over 90% – stayed,” Mayor Breed recalled.
“This is a community that believes in environmental justice, and it deserves to be at the forefront of the program. So it was a huge success. »
Eventually, the city wants all of its residential customers to be served at 100% renewable energy.
What can other cities learn from San Francisco?
As climate change rages around the world, it can be tempting to become discouraged.
But change is possible – and city dwellers deserve public servants who fight for the quality of life in their cities.
From reducing dependence on fossil fuels to tackling plastic pollution, there are many solutions we can and must implement, says Mayor Breed.
“We’re really proud of what we’ve done in San Francisco,” she says.
“These are solutions which have been and can be implemented in other places as well.