Post-car mobility: 3 green trends for more livable cities
Many of us still want to step on the brakes when it comes to car-free city centers. To save our environment and improve our urban life, however, some things just have to change. The positive news is that there are promising alternatives and mobility trends to discover our booming cities quickly, flexibly and sustainably, even without a car.
Whether it’s a new job opportunity, an urban lifestyle or great love, more and more people are moving to the city. By 2050, 70% of the world’s population will live in metropolises around the globe. However, urban growth has a significantly bad impact on air quality and quality of life. And because many feel that public transport is unreliable or poorly accessible, the car is often still the first choice for city dwellers, in the hope that the road network can keep pace with population growth. And due to a lack of alternatives. A vicious circle.
The Diesel ban: Kick-off for the mobility revolution?
At the same time, cities are continuously trying to offer their inhabitants a greener and more livable environment. In Germany, for example, the ban on diesel driving is currently being hotly debated. Just recently, the city of Stuttgart turned its urban area into an environmental zone – and thus banned around 300,000 diesel vehicles in urban traffic. It is a courageous, but also polarizing attempt to find a balance between the conflicting demands on our cities of the future – and to make room for greener alternatives.
Because the fact is: In many German cities, the EU limit values for particulate matter and nitrogen oxide are in some cases significantly exceeded. Other countries plan for the post-combustion era, too. In Norway, for example, there won’t be new cars with gasoline or diesel drives from 2025 on, Costa Rica even wants to ban production four years earlier.
But, apart from electrified cars that face their own challenges, what are the alternatives? We have looked at projects around the world that are already promoting sustainable urban mobility, helping to ensure that one day we can retire the internal combustion engine.
Sustainable urban planning: The comeback of the pedestrian zone
Modern urban planners have long wanted to make life in the city better, especially for pedestrians and cyclists. This is bitterly necessary, because in the last century car-friendly cities had the right of way – to the detriment of pedestrians. Today they are again working on putting people at the center of their planning.
Since the beginning of private car traffic, the appearance of our inner cities is shaped by ever wider streets. Is this a trend that will be reversed towards pedestrians in the future?
The Belgian city of Ghent, for example, has developed the “Leefstraat” project – living street – for this purpose. The concept: residents can block an area of their road from traffic for several months. During this time, they use alternative means of transport such as electric and transport bicycles. In Spain Barcelona is experimenting with pedestrian-friendly “Superblocks“. A square area consisting of nine blocks is blocked off from car traffic. This creates a pedestrian-friendly zone. In Oslo and Madrid, the city centers are to be completely car-free by 2019 and 2020 respectively.
Discover more about pedestrian-friendly cities: www.urban-hub.com/de/sustainability/staedte-fuer-menschen-statt-fuer-autos/
Shared Mobility: Can my smartphone replace the car?
In addition to trends in urban planning, digital technologies are also creating completely new opportunities, especially in the area of shared mobility. There are already more than 1,600 bike sharing programs worldwide. From Warsaw to Wuhan and from Buenos Aires to Brussels, bike sharing serves as an environmentally friendly transport option that helps reduce vehicle traffic on urban roads. New programs often include e-bikes, which make cycling on uphill slopes much easier.
In recent years there has been a real boom in bike sharing – competition between providers is fierce. This not only pleases environmentalists, but also those of us who want to move through the urban jungle with maximum freedom.
This is perfect not only for older people, but also for users who don’t want to appear sweaty at appointments. A unique one is the “Copenhagen Bike” – a former standard bike that has been converted into an electrical version. What’s so special about it is its ability to capture data about air quality, traffic and other information and then share it with the city authorities. What works for bicycles is of course also available for cars: a year ago, car-sharing providers were already pleased to welcome over two million users – in Germany alone.
Another positive development affects the now switch from one means of transport to another. Until a few years ago, it was often difficult to see the departure times on the way, the networks were not coordinated with each other and the possibilities to buy tickets were opaque. In such a situation many give up – and simply take their car.
But digitalization makes such connections enormously easier today. Apps that combine the different offers with each other are advancing: They show all transport options for a specific trip and provide all bus and subway timetables as well as directions. In combination with park-and-ride options, the integration of car, smartphone and public transport is now much less stressful.
Interested in Shared Mobility? Have a look here: www.urban-hub.com/de/smart_mobility/shared-mobility-for-less-traffic-clean-air-and-a-better-public-transportation/
With the elevator to undreamt-of depths
An efficient public transport system is essential for a city worth living in. However, daily commuters are often unaware that fast and uncomplicated transport from the road to the underground stations is just as important as a functioning rail network. In many large cities, there is just as complex an infrastructure underground as above ground – from underground lines and sewage systems to deep foundations for skyscrapers, catacombs and archaeological treasures.
The problem: In many big cities like London, Paris or New York, the way to the subway leads the passengers through an almost endless labyrinth of corridors. Already today, many passengers are deterred by this long footpath. In view of the increasing density in the cities, the networks would have to be extended to even lower locations. However, this would make the routes even further.
With the speed and capacity of flexible elevator systems such as MULTI, stations could easily be built at much greater depths than is currently possible with escalators. In addition, accelerating moving walks such as ACCEL can pick commuters up at their doorstep and transport them to the next public transport stop. This makes public transport just as comfortable as driving a car.
On Urban Hub, you can find more information on underground transport infrastructures: www.urban-hub.com/de/smart_mobility/multi-for-the-metro/
Smart urban planning: rethinking together is the trump card
Stuttgart’s Lord Mayor Kuhn illustrates that there is an increasing openness towards such solutions in German cities as well: “With the fine dust alarm, a rethink has taken place in Stuttgart: People are discussing the air in their city and they are increasingly using alternatives to the car. This is proven not just by the rising number of passengers in public transport.” The improvement in particulate matter values is also attributable to the many individual measures taken by the city. “We have never slackened our efforts. It’s working now. We would like to emphasize our investments in public transport, our measures for traffic congestion, urban greening and the great success of the job ticket.”
Together, these different solutions form a multimodal transport network that covers all needs. And they show: We should regard the ban on diesel driving less of a restriction on traffic and more of a further development. It enables the inhabitants to rethink their own behavior and thus, to develop their cities interactively. And so “smart cities”