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November 12, 2020

Driver’s Month may come with a side of greenwashing

Councillor Jessy Khera's Driver’s Month initiative has kicked off, offering incentives for people to drive and park in the city throughout November. A planned showcase of electric cars in Rundle Mall as part of the project has been labelled by one councillor as "a bit of greenwashing".

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  • Words and pictures: Angela Skujins
  • Main image: Electric vehicle charging station in Hindmarsh Square

Councillor Jessy Khera tells CityMag the idea of promoting electric vehicles during Driver’s Month came to him after the Adelaide city council supported his contentious motion back in August.

“I did speak to the administration and the Lord Mayor [after] and she was very keen on the idea, and I said, ‘Look, we should also promote electric vehicles as part of this month,” Jessy says.

“I can’t tell you any more details or specifics right now… [but] there’ll be electric vehicles on display in Rundle Mall.”

Driver’s Month was conceived to encourage more visitation to the CBD and North Adelaide by offering a range of initiatives to private-vehicle commuters for the whole month of November.

This includes 25 per cent discounts for on-street parking when people pay through the Park Adelaide app (which currently has a very sad 1.4 out of five rating in the Apple app store), plus the possibility of winning a $100 voucher to spend in businesses within the city and North Adelaide, and $2 parking in the council’s UParks on nights and weekends.

Jessy says he wanted to support electric vehicles because “it’s better for the environment,” which is by no means an admission from the councillor that encouraging the increased use of private vehicles for commuting into the city is bad for the environment.

“I think making parking and driving efficient is not actually anti-environment,” Jessy explains.

“If you encourage people to drive further distances because they think it’s expensive or difficult to drive in the city, they’ll just go to Westfield Marion or something. That’s more emissions.”

Councillor Robert Simms has consistently campaigned for the city to move towards more environmentally friendly modes of transport and believes bringing electric vehicles into the Driver’s Month initiative would be dishonest marketing.

“I welcome any promotion of electric cars but it will take more than a display in the mall to make up for the damage that’s been done to Town Hall’s environmental record,” Robert tells CityMag.

“It sounds like a bit of greenwashing to me – to have a display like that. And it’s not going to take away from the broader initiative, which is about trying to bring more cars into the CBD at a time of climate emergency.”

Jessy Khera could not tell CityMag what brand of electric vehicles would be on display in Rundle Mall, or when.

The City of Adelaide has long held the goal of becoming one of the world’s first carbon-neutral cities, and its website states it aims to do this with “the uptake of renewable energy and clean, smart technologies.”

The council also encourages city users to follow its lead, offering a dot point list of recommendations for how individuals can play their part.

“Make your travel to, from and around the city greener and more active or consider an electric vehicle,” the second dot point reads.

Transport emissions accounted for 25 per cent of the city’s total emissions, according to the City of Adelaide’s most recent Carbon Neutral Adelaide report published last year.

The same report includes advice on how the council can reduce these emissions, including the continued development of electric vehicle usage and charging stations around the city, but also “increasing” Adelaide’s bike infrastructure.

In 2016, the State Government and City of Adelaide committed $6 million each to continue developing bikeways through the city. We currently have one incomplete bikeway, cutting north-south along Frome Street.

Earlier this month, the council convened for a special meeting, because it was revealed they could lose $3 million of that funding.

“There is a risk that the State Government grant funding allocated to the East-West Bikeway will be withdrawn if the bikeway is not delivered by 30 June 2021,” a report from the meeting’s agenda says.

“If Council is to deliver the East-West Bikeway in the line with the requirements of the deed, the route alignment and delivery method need to be agreed before the end of December 2020.”

Due to the looming deadline, the council’s transport manager, Daniel Kellar, this week recommended a preferred route for the East-West Bikeway along Flinders, Franklin and Wakefield streets, connected via Gawler Place, InDaily reports.

Council staff aim to present a final report to councillors detailing the bikeway’s design and cost in December.

Source: Adelaide City Council via InDaily

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