Electrification, connectivity, autonomy… The way we move around cities is set to fundamentally change. And it needs to.
There are more people living in, and travelling around, our cities than ever before. Congestion and pollution have risen and, with city populations set to further increase, these issues will start to come to a head in the next 10 years.
What can be done to address them? What is being done? Here are five areas that we believe will underpin the future of city travel in both the short and long term…
Prioritising Walking & Cycling
When it comes to planning and development a number of councils are already looking at prioritising active travel over cars.
In the coming years you’ll see a number of hard and soft measures being implemented to move the needle. Infrastructure (such as dedicated cycle networks) is one thing, but there are other incentives around making areas and routes without cars more appealing.
Governments will have to place more weight on active travel if they’re serious about improving people’s health, reducing levels of physical inactivity and sedentary behaviour, and reducing air pollution and congestion. Studies have shown that areas with no-car zones actually perform better economically so it’s not like decision makers don’t have enough incentives to make changes!
TfL research revealed that those not in cars spend 40% more each month in neighbourhood shops than motorists.
Whether decision makers choose to prioritise walking and cycling or not, more joined-up thinking on transport planning (and the direct and indirect outcomes it has on all our business sectors) will be needed. For example, there are a number of smart people talking about, and working on, autonomous vehicles. However, I hope that our love of new and shiny technology doesn’t take us down a path that has the potential to lead to isolated systems and disconnected communities.
Rise of E-bikes
There is rapid growth in the number of e-bikes and pedelecs (pedal electric-assisted cycles) on our roads. In fact, there are expected to be 100 million extra e-bike purchases by 2030 and, in the Netherlands, e-bike sales have already overtaken traditional bike sales.
There is a slight chicken and egg situation going on here. The increased demand is creating more innovation in the space, which in turn creates a better product that people want to buy.
Well-designed e-bikes have lost their ‘uncool’ image, with a number of people feeling more confident and safer on them. This has helped attract a new type of cyclist, sometimes a slightly older one (Halfords sells 65% of its e-bikes to over 55s), and if the trend continues it won’t be long until more people shift out of cars and onto e-bikes.
Legislating for Dockless Bikes & Scooters
Better public and government engagement is needed to avoid situations like this!
Dockless bike share schemes and e-scooters have launched almost overnight with authorities struggling to legislate and regulate these new transport solutions quickly enough.
However, a wide-ranging review of laws is underway that might see scooters come to the UK for the first time. The Department for Transport (DfT) will be looking at what regulations need to be updated to accommodate changes in the way people and goods move and this is only a positive thing.
It’s easy to forget how different the roads in UK cities are in comparison to other countries. There is often less space on them and, as a result, new technologies and modes of transport are not as easy to implement here as they are internationally.
Fortunately, the DfT review will consider how to utilise electric-powered scooters and cargo bicycles on our roads, encourage data sharing and simplify journey planning and payments.
Developing Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS)
The idea behind an ITS is to make sure that cyclists, policy makers and other stakeholders all benefit from any data that is created and used. It’s a 3-way street if you like.
Through connected technology, whether that’s interactive/smart traffic lights, nudging apps or smart routing and parking, cycling can become a more appealing mode of transport. For example, where data currently routes cyclists from A to B based on where cars want to travel or where there are known cycle paths, the future of routing looks a lot more dynamic. It will take into account real-time data and insights that are based on traffic congestion, road surface quality and incident reports.
ITS apps can generate more valuable data that can be fed back to the cyclist to improve their daily journey, and can be used to create better cycling policy. Policy which then continues to increase active travel usage and the number of people using ITS apps. And thus the cycle continues!
Importantly though, we won’t be able to create travel that is safe, reliable, quick, convenient and comfortable without overhauling how data is shared and used amongst parties. This means creating a set of standards, particularly for cycling data, which is somethingwe are pleased to be involved in through our work with the Cycling Industries Europe as part of the SynchroniCity project.
See.Sense is playing a part in this with our Ride Insights
Involving People In Design
In the coming years I expect to see more citizens brought into the design and co-creation of projects, something we’re aiming to do with our work.
This is crucial if we want to generate the range (and quantity) of data that we need to optimise transport systems. We cannot expect citizens to openly share their insights if they don’t feel bought-in to the process, or understand what their data is being used for.
Through this blog series we wanted to highlight why data and insights are so important for the future of our cities, not just from a transport perspective, but also from a health, environmental and economic one.