Everyone, no one and a few. This is how we could define public space. And unfortunately there are too many cars. And too many bicycles, scooters… and, ultimately, too many private and public vehicles for the space we have. Micromobility will win or die in the management we make of our cities.
More possibilities. Those people who live in big cities have more possibilities than ever to get around. In recent years, shared vehicles (cars, motorcycles, bicycles or scooters) and the explosion of VTCs have been added to private vehicles and public transport.
same space. But, nevertheless, the urban space remains the same. The sidewalks have been filled with vehicles parked on it (which in an uncontrolled way causes a problem for people with reduced mobility or the blind, but also for pedestrians who have to go around obstacles). And private car owners now have to compete with carpoolers for a gap in the road.
Inflection point. In this context, on May 19 we had the opportunity to attend a round table organized by Free Now. The mobility app adds Zity (a carsharing company owned by Renault) at your services. Now, its users can opt for taxi and VTC services or shared cars, motorcycles, scooters and bicycles within the same app.
Accompanying the announcement, a round table served to confront the positions of one and the other, to understand what each service offers and what it demands. And, at the heart of the debate, one issue: there are too many vehicles and space is limited. To restrict is, inevitably, to benefit one or the other. And this is where micromobility will win or die.
of everyone and no one. During question time, a topic focused the debate: how public space should be regulated. Federico Jiménez de Parga Maseda, General Coordinator of Mobility of the Madrid City Council, pointed out that his position is to offer the greatest possible freedom to the user, without restricting any form of mobility.
Excuse me, while I claim my street space pic.twitter.com/51wyzoyE1D
— 21st Century City (@urbanthoughts11) May 14, 2022
In fact, in one of his speeches, the person in charge of the town hall pointed to Paris as a path that they will not follow: the reduction of parking space for the private vehicle. In the opposite position, Marino Caballero, CDO of Zity, who assured that public-private collaboration is essential to guarantee the parking of shared mobility cars. David Bartholomew, director of Share Nowmaintained the same position, ensuring that a smaller number of vehicles but more complementary to each other helps to make traffic more fluid and cleaner.
I want my space. And I want it now. For years, this is what different actors in urban traffic have been demanding: from pedestrians to users of shared vehicles, including cyclists, skaters and motorists. And many point to the same goal: the car. According to Free Now, 73% of Spaniards believe that there are too many private vehicles.
And it is a problem, because it is estimated that the private vehicle is stopped 97% of the time. In other words, the streets (everyone’s space) are occupied by highly inefficient private vehicles in large cities. For sample, a comparison of what they occupy 200 personas by car, bicycle or public transport.
With these images, it is clear to think that fewer cars on the streets facilitate faster and more efficient travel. Also greater facilities when it comes to parking and, therefore, reaching the destination. “For us, the fewer cars on the street, the better,” said David Bartolomé in his speech.
More than ever. The data shows that more and more young people they avoid getting the license of driving. Nor buy a car. And it is that already in 2017 it was calculated that a private car costs its driver an average of 45,000 euros during its entire useful life. A cost that, with a market that continues to make their vehicles more expensive, more and more young people are not willing to assume.
But with the growth of shared use vehicles, the problem also increases. More possibilities for the user, more vehicles but the same space on the street. A problem that is detrimental to the micromobility companies themselves, who defend that their service is much more efficient but that they need a space with a smaller number of private vehicles for their best development.
The paradox. Micromobility services, especially car-sharing services, argue that their cars are more efficient because they make a greater number of journeys. It is evident that, in addition, their services are even faster if there are fewer cars on the asphalt. If the transit times are shorter, they will also be able to make a greater number of journeys. A circle that feeds back to its own benefit.
However, without other complementary measures, adding more vehicles to the street can aggravate the inconveniences. If private vehicle users see no reason to reduce their trips, there will be a greater number of cars on the streets, fewer parking possibilities and a less attractive offer for the user. It is a key transition period to make these companies a real alternative to the private vehicle, which can replace it and add the number of journeys necessary to be economically viable.
not only paris. Paris has been the focus of attention in recent years, but it has not been the only European city that has chosen to reduce surface parking to reduce passing routes, noise and pollution. Oslo opted for this same measure in 2017, closing its entire old town. Of course, there only 12% of residents owned a private vehicle.
Amsterdam has the most expensive surface parking in the world (13 euros/2 hours) and is in the process of eliminating 11,000 parking spaces. Brussels wants to eliminate 65,000 seats of parking in 2030. And London seeks to impose a payment of 800 euros per year for those who park on the street, a clear disincentive beyond the very expensive tolls that the city is developing.
In the hands of the citizen? The above cases show that The restrictions they are also a push in one direction or another. When the citizen is given facilities for the use of one or another means of transport, he is irremediably harming another. Vitoria It has been for years a reference for Spanish urban cyclists. How? Limiting its streets to 30 km/h and betting on more bike lanes.
The case of Barcelona is also a good example. The proliferation of regulated parking spaces de facto increased the space available to residents, with a decrease in the “visiting car”. Shortly thereafter, however, a new increase in the number vehicular. With greater parking facilities, now private vehicles had grown among residents and, therefore, the problem remained the same.
It is the same case as the famous example of the suburban traffic jams. With congested approaches to a city, building more lanes and roads only temporarily alleviates the situation. After verifying a competitive advantage between private vehicle and public transport, the citizen opts for the first en masse and, finally, the accesses are congested again. Which repeats the same problem: there are too many vehicles and public space is limited.
Photo | @euklidiadas. License CCO.