Owning a car is still cool but it is not smart at all. A car drives in average only 1.7 people per year and it is responsible for 25% of the global CO2 footprint. Bikes were definitely part of our urban environment since their invention. Nowadays it is an important component when planning our modern smart city transportation strategies.
Mobility is definitely in the top 5 list of any world's metropolis urban problems. For decades the transportation matrix in our cities was based in automobiles, that has become not only a mean of mobility but also a symbol of status. Owning a car is still cool and it is part of white-collar modern lifestyle. But it is not smart at all! A car drives in average only 1.7 people per year and it is responsible for 25% of the global CO2 footprint. Indeed, cars also amplify the problem of urban space planning, demanding an average of 50 costly square meters to be parked. The worst part of it is that statistically cars are just used 20% of their total lifetime, the rest of the time it is just parked, inactive, as a “non-sense" expensive and fancy piece of the urban puzzle. Don't take me wrong, for the records I love my sweet car as any one of Y, X or baby boomer generations.
Matter of fact we are going smarter and that is good news! By one side, I am getting pressured by the huge problems and costs caused by urban traffic congestions. according to Inrix research, just in the United States more than 120 billion dollars are spent, better wasted, yearly in time and fuel due to traffic congestion. In the other side, the new generation, known as millennials, heavily influenced by the principles of sharing economy seems to perceive car ownership and urban mobility in a different way.
To go deeper in the issue, I will split this article in two parts.
Part I - For a Greener and healthier urban lifestyle, let's share a ride…
Bikes were definitely part of our urban environment since their invention. Maybe more related to leisure and sports than to urban mobility in the past, but they were always among us. Nowadays it is an important component when planning our modern smart city transportation strategies. The complexity here is to harmonize pedestrians, bikes and motorized vehicles in our crowded and busy streets. Europe is far ahead in this goal, mainly regarding the infrastructure and also in bike ownership. In The Netherlands, for example, we can find almost more bikes than inhabitants. But when it comes to the new trend of bike sharing, Asia is really making a big revolution. China alone has 3 cities (Hangzhou [#1], Taiyuan [#2] and Shanghai [#4] in the top 8 list of the World’s Best Bike Sharing Programs, published in September 2015 by EcoWatch organization. In Europe the bests programs are in Paris [#3], London [#5] and Barcelona [#7]. The United States just had New York [#6] in the list and the numbers are quite shy if compared to China. In 2015, New Yorkers could count on around 6.000 bikes, spread along 330 stations while the “Hangzhouers” had on their disposal amazingly almost 78.000 bikes and 2.700 stations and as it is about mobility numbers here it is crucial.
A good bike-sharing program is not only about the technology behind the bikes or apps but mainly how easy is to get the bike, to use and return the bike. The cost of the service is also a key-point for the success. Finally, as already mentioned, the urban infrastructure developed or adapted and the bike lanes will also play an important role.
In my last trip to Malaysia, in April 2016, I visited the first national bike-share program. However the country is just starting with a pilot project, the program has a high potential of success. The renting system is simple to use and, however bikes are not equipped with end-cutting technology as the ones I saw in Stockholm, they are safe and cheap, like the ones in China. These are important points in emerging societies. Keep it simple, it is Smart!
The video to learn more about the first Malaysian bike-share program. Don't miss the second part of this article: Dad, I don’t want a car!