Sustainable Mobility in London, Ontario: Past, Present and Future Considerations

A lack of sustainable mobility is a challenge that webs through many of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). According to the UN, sustainability encompasses three dimensions: environmental, economic, and social. Mobility relates to how people get from one place to another.

Problem and History in London

London, Ontario is home to roughly 400,000 people; in 2013, the City of London reported that 73.5% of this population relies on personal vehicles for transportation, most of which run on gasoline.[1] This domination of personal automobiles has caused significant pollution and greenhouse gas emissions contradicting the goals of SDG11, which seeks to create sustainable cities that do not deplete resources such as fossil fuels (United Nations, 2022).

In 2013 the City of London highlighted that only 9% of Londoners bike and walk.[2] However, in 2016, Statistics Canada highlighted that 5.5% of Londoners walk for transportation and only 1.1% of the population cycles. Ultimately, this exhibits a falling rate of the utmost environmentally sustainable forms of transportation.[3]

Furthermore, London’s history of infrastructure has seen little change regarding sustainability, which has caused traffic and a lack of accessible transit services. Traffic has clear social implications, such as reduced accessibility, increased travel times and stress.[4] From an environmental perspective, traffic causes increased pollution, especially in urban areas. reports that traffic-related air pollution (TRAP) “includes emissions from the exhaust, evaporation of fuel, and tire bakeware”.[5]

Stepping Away from Sustainability: Social, Economic, Environmental Implications

TRAP emissions oppose Climate Action (SDG13) because they contribute to, rather than mitigate, climate change. Furthermore, the lack of accessible transportation in London has economic implications for Londoners, specifically those with disabilities.[6] Without accessible transportation, there are clear ramifications on the ability to attain and maintain work. This also puts a financial strain on those forced to use more expensive modes of transportation and contradicts SDG8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth) and SDG10 (Reduced Inequality). Moreover, access to healthcare is limited for many, which directly opposes the goal of access to healthcare in SDG3, Good Health and Well-being.[7]

An Unmitigated Future: Social, Economic, Environmental Long-Term impacts

Amongst many things, London must take localized action to restructure the state of transportation; otherwise, the long-term impacts will be detrimental. As greenhouse gas rates rise, the atmosphere weakens and traps heat, causing climate change. Transportation makes up 15% of all energy pollution in the world which will lead to global warming; once raising the heat to 1.5 degrees Celsius, we will see cataclysms of storms, floods, and drought.[8] At a more localized level, transportation continues to be at the forefront of pollution in London. Long-term impacts will cause low air quality and water contamination, which will harm many lives and fill the hospitals, which is detrimental to SDG3 (Good Health and Well-Being). London’s economy would be negatively impacted due to health issues and lack of medical care, pushing SDG8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth) backward. In parallel, Londoner’s overall quality of life would significantly decrease causing social breakdown.

What is London doing?

London is currently taking a multi-pronged approach to combat the city’s history of mobility issues. Transportation Demand Management (TDM) is bringing three upstream measures; education and outreach, incentives, and transportation supply.[9]

TDM is attempting to raise awareness of travel issues by educating the public to try and convince people to use alternative transportation options, specifically public transit.[10] London has been making transit improvements since 2014, including adding new routes and increasing the maintenance of buses.[11] This year, London transit has implemented air purification systems on all conventional buses, killing airborne viruses. Additionally, the transit system is increasing the frequency of buses due to the Express 92 line returning.[12] TDM also offers workplace, school and household incentives by lowering prices or providing benefits such as cheaper travel for Western students.[13] Furthermore, In 2022, the city completed three additional kilometers of new cycling infrastructure in areas such as the downtown loop, Queens Ave, Victoria street bridge, Thames Valley Parkway and Colborne Street.[14]

Personal Recommendations

Despite the current developments and plans, London’s mobility still has a long way to go. Change is necessary in two main areas: a transition to electric buses and transportation, and increasing walking and biking in London.

Although London is attempting to grow the number of buses to improve sustainable mobility, gas-powered buses contribute to automobile pollution. There are currently over 250 electric trolley buses in Vancouver, which do not contribute to tailpipe emissions; London can follow suit by implementing electric line-powered buses within the next five years. However, transitioning from gas-powered buses will come with a high cost. For example, Ottawa’s plan to implement electric buses will cost nearly 1 billion dollars.[15] Yet, electric buses will aid in the social needs of the community to target SDG8 (decent work and economic growth), while also reducing the large climate footprint of mobility by targeting SDG11 (sustainable cities and communities) and SDG13 (climate action).

Although electric buses cause 87% fewer emissions than gas buses, they still produce a carbon footprint and are expensive.[16] London should focus its mobility efforts on walking and biking, which are practices that do not produce emissions. A safe and convenient network is the most urgent need. In conversation with people in my network, I also learned that the winter season is one of the causes of difficulties for people who bike. Roads and sidewalks are maintained in downtown London but not the Thames Valley Parkway. In addition, minor roads and sidewalks are dangerous due to ice, causing many Londoners to choose to drive instead of walking or cycling.

London should invest in cycling infrastructure, sidewalk and road maintenance on inner roads to create safer mobility for those who choose to walk and bike. Those measures will encourage more Londoners to increase the use of these forms of sustainable transportation. The City of London is focused in the right direction regarding the education of sustainable mobility; however, there should be focus on encouraging the community to switch to walking and biking, especially during spring, summer and fall months. The City of London can educate the population by linking biking and walking benefits to sustainable development goals. Biking and walking will improve good health and well-being (SDG3), will create a more sustainable city (SDG11), and will begin to reduce transportation’s carbon footprint (SDG13). 

Key Points

In London’s recent history, sustainable mobility has caused various economic, social and environmental implications, which in the long run, will drive catastrophic consequences. Automobiles dominate the industry, causing pollution and environmental degradation. Furthermore, the lack of accessible transportation will impact London’s health and economy. London is focusing on education, incentives, and transportation supply, which have only slightly impacted sustainability. Therefore, to target the United Nations SDGs; electric buses, walking, and bicycling should be the future of London’s efforts to create sustainable mobility in the city.


[1] London Transit, “News and Service Updates,” London Transit Commission, February 13, 2023,

[2] London Transit, “News and Service Updates,” London Transit Commission, February 13, 2023,

[3] Canadian Government, Census in Brief: Commuters using sustainable transportation in census metropolitan areas (Government of Canada, Statistics Canada, November 29, 2017),

[4] Abdul Fattah, Syed Morshed, and Abdulla-Al Kafy, “Insights into the Socio-Economic Impacts of Traffic Congestion in the Port and Industrial Areas of Chittagong City, Bangladesh,” Transportation Engineering (Elsevier, June 30, 2022),

[5] Health Government of Canada, “Government of Canada,” (/ Gouvernement du Canada, March 31, 2022),

[6] Sandra Rosenbloom, “Transportation Patterns and Problems of People with Disabilities,” Transportation Patterns and Problems of People with Disabilities, 2007,

[7] Randal, Edward, Caroline Shaw, Melissa McLeod, Michael Keall, Alistair Woodward, and Anja Mizdrak. “The impact of transport on population health and health equity for Māori in Aotearoa New Zealand: a prospective burden of disease study.” International journal of environmental research and public health 19, no. 4 (2022): 2032.

[8] Lauren Sommer, “This Is What the World Looks like If We Pass the Crucial 1.5-Degree Climate Threshold,” NPR (NPR, November 8, 2021),

[9] City of London, “Home | City of London,” A New Mobility Transportation Master Plan for London, 2013,

[10] City of London, “Home | City of London,” A New Mobility Transportation Master Plan for London, 2013,

[11] City of London, “Home | City of London,” A New Mobility Transportation Master Plan for London, 2013,

[12] London Transit, “News and Service Updates,” London Transit Commission, February 13, 2023,

[13] City of London, “Home | City of London,” A New Mobility Transportation Master Plan for London, 2013,

[14] London, “Core Cycling Projects,” Core Cycling Projects | City of London, 2022,

[15] City News Ottawa, “OC Transpo’s Work to Change Diesel Bus Fleet to Battery-Electric Could Cost City Nearly $1 Billion,” CityNews Ottawa (CityNews Ottawa, 2023),

[16] Proterra, “Proterra e-Buses Have Cut out 100m Lbs. of Carbon Emissions,” Proterra, August 10, 2022,

This blog post series is an ongoing partnership between the SDG Cities program at Pillar Nonprofit Network and the Environmental Stewardship course in the Governance, Leadership, and Ethics program at Huron University. As part of their assignments, students are required to write about real-world challenges using the UN Sustainable Developments Goals (SDGs) as a holistic framework to analyse the problem and propose solutions that could lead to systemic change and a better future for all. The series presents an opportunity for students to address practical and meaningful challenges that their communities are facing currently,  and an opportunity for SDG Cities to enrich their program by including youth perspectives.

All opinions expressed by the guest authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the SDG Cities program or Pillar Nonprofit Network.