Have we already seen “Peak Car” use come and go?

Most of us are familiar with the term “peak oil,” the point at which most of the world’s oil reserves have been consumed and production starts an inexorable decline. But have we already seen “peak car,” the steady decline of car-miles travelled?

That’s the startling claim made by Australians Peter Newman and Jeff Kenworthy in the latest issue of World Transport Policy and Practice (see this link at page 31.)

Their analysis suggests that a combination of rising fuel prices, aging cities, increasing urbanism and the growth of public transit may be turning the tide of cars, spelling the end of designing cities around automobiles, at least in the developed world.

The paper was a key point in a provocative presentation yesterday to the Ontario Bike Summit, in Ottawa, where Rodney Tolley, of Walk21, made an impassioned appeal to the cycling world to embrace “active transportation,” especially walking, as the way to build sustainable cities.

Tolley is in the final stages of planning a major conference on walking and active transportation here in Vancouver in October, a fitting counterpart to next year’s Velo-city2012, a global cycling conference.