Asian metropolises top list of world’s greenest commuter cities

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Three Asian metropolises - Tokyo, Beijing and Singapore - are the world’s leading environmentally-friendly commuting cities, a report to be released by data insight company Kantar on Thursday says.

FILE PHOTO: People walk down stairs in a train station in Tokyo's business district September 30, 2014. September 30, 2014. REUTERS/Yuya Shino

The three rank highly because their huge populations mostly walk to work or use public transport, with relatively few commuters traveling by car.

“Every second person takes public transport to work,” Rolf Kullen, Senior Director for Mobility at Kantar, told Reuters about Beijing commuters.

The study questioned 20,000 commuters in 31 cities around the world about their journeys to work. Seoul boosted the Asian showing, coming in in seventh place.

Four European cities, London, Copenhagen, Amsterdam and Moscow, are also in the top ten, along with Nairobi and Sao Paulo. No North American city made the higher rankings.

London snagged the top spot in Europe thanks to its expansive public rail network, but high levels of car commuting in the suburbs of European “bike capitals” Amsterdam and Copenhagen pushed them down the list.

“These cities were built for the car,” said Kullen, but praised efforts to shift commuting behavior to other means of transport.

Kullen said public transport needs to be extended in cities across the globe to help remove cars from the streets and make commuting greener, especially in the suburbs.

Reducing the number of cars is an important factor in reducing air pollution in cities and improving the quality of life and general health of their inhabitants.

The United Nations’ special rapporteur on human rights and the environment has said air pollution causes 7 million premature deaths per year, calling it a “human rights issue” and a “global health crisis.”

“One of the biggest challenges facing global cities today is moving commuters away from the convenience and comfort of their cars and onto more sustainable transport options,” Guillaume Saint, Global Automotive & Mobility Lead at Kantar said in a statement.

Jens Muller, air quality manager at Brussels-based campaign group Transport and Environment, said the three top 10 European cities had one thing in common.

“They have all decided to move people, not cars.”

It’s not even that people want to commute by car. Kantar said many people would prefer to walk or cycle to work but it wasn’t always possible.

“The most attractive modes are actually walking and biking. People do like to move,” Kullen said. “People are happy on two wheels.”

Reporting by Jonas Ekblom; Editing by Kirsten Donovan