Cities are going through a stage of profound changes, which began before the pandemic, but were strongly driven by it. Bicycles, scooters, and pedestrians share public space with cars, until now the great protagonists of mobility. We are facing a true transformation of cities as we know them.

These issues have been reflected in the conference organized by PONS Seguridad Vial and Spin (the micromobility branch of Ford Motor), in which representatives of public administrations and mobility experts have participated, and which has also collected the testimony of municipal officials, who have shared their experiences with various initiatives and projects to promote this new mobility.

Towards the city of 15 minutes

Ana Gómez, CEO of PONS Seguridad Vial, has pointed out the challenges that the new mobility must face: making it more sustainable, safer and providing solutions to the day-to-day needs of citizens. The objective is to reduce road accidents in urban areas and because the more than 76,000 premature deaths that occur each year due to pollution are not admissible.

In this regard, Ignacio Alcalde, expert in Smart City and urban development, also moderator of the conference, explained that major urban changes have always been motivated by technology (the car and the elevator, horizontal and vertical mobility) and by crises sanitary (reorganisation of urban planning). At that moment we are now, he pointed out because “we have realised that we liked the city of confinement more, without noise and without pollution. “For this reason, we are moving towards the “city in 4D” (time dimension), the “city of 15 minutes”, in which we can satisfy 80% of our needs. For the rest (an event, a concert, etc.), there is the “city of minute 16”, which offers other opportunities. The key, he concluded, is to articulate the two city models.

Micromobility, an opportunity

Alfonso Gil, deputy mayor of Bilbao and president of the Mobility Commission of the FEMP (Spanish Federation of Municipalities and Provinces), stressed that the new paradigm of urban mobility is going to cause a significant urban change. As he has said, we are going towards “cities without smoke, without noise and without deaths.” In this sense, he has underlined the important legislative step that has been taken with the new speed limits in cities: at 30 kilometres per hour there are fewer accidents, less pollution and less noise. Gil also added that we must see micromobility as “an opportunity” and that the changes that come must be “acceptable in social and environmental terms.”

Likewise, Jorge Ordás, Deputy Director General of Mobility Management and Technology of the General Directorate of Traffic, recalled that the role that the DGT now has been given by the city councils when requesting a regulatory umbrella and a link to the changes that are coming. In his opinion, micromobility is a “factor of change” that will have to face three challenges, in which the DGT is a decisive actor:

Velocity. It will be necessary to calm the traffic and in that line is the 30 kilometre per hour limitation, which has just come into force.

Space. It’s limited and micromobility is going to help a lot. Also the DGT, with the DGT vehicle registration and the promotion of ADAS (driving assistants) and smart mobility policies.

Contamination. The DGT environmental labels and the different platforms with connected vehicles (indicating which streets can be driven on and which cannot) will also be essential.

Ordás has also pointed out that the objective is to go towards a safe micromobility and in this line they are working on the preparation of a manual of technical characteristics of the VMP, in addition to asking users to use helmets and reflectors to be more protected. Likewise, he has warned that “everything that we do not do, others will do.”

“Walk around the calcera”

Ramón Ledesma, PONS Road Safety advisor, has resorted to a decalogue to explain the transformation process we are undergoing towards safe micromobility:

Promote disorder to seek order. We must modify what has been established so far to move towards a new mobility model.

Pass from owner to user. This is changing: the owner of the vehicle does not necessarily have to be the one who uses it.

From 4 to 2 wheels. Sales of cars and large-displacement motorcycles fell, but those of bicycles, mopeds and VMP increased.

“Walk around”. Until now, we were driving on the road and walking on the sidewalk. Now this changes and we must look for new verbs to talk about the new ways of moving.

From authorisation to restriction. Especially for the private car.

Protect the weak. The challenge is to reduce the number of vulnerable victims that occur on urban roads, so the 30 kilometre per hour limitation is a fundamental measure (and without many changes because the average speed of cities does not exceed 20 kilometres per hour).

The new obligations of the vehicles. The new driving assistants take on tasks previously held by drivers, requiring certain regulatory changes.

Use of vehicles and the environment. Public policies will be determined by the fiscal criteria that are imposed on the different types of vehicles.

Compliance with the standard. If a law is passed, it must be complied with or enforced, and this affects all vehicles.

The address, as a new logistics centre. The distribution of goods is the great challenge of the new mobility.

Ledesma has also established a triangle on which the solutions will come: technology ( “it brought the problem and it will also bring the solution, as has been seen with the recent Riders Law” ), traffic calming (city 30) and parking (1 car = 5 bikes = 20 scooters).

Example of cities

During the day, the cities were also given a voice. Thus, Brian Matthews, head of mobility for Milton Keynes, a town of about 250,000 inhabitants north of London), has said that his city was designed 50 years ago with the mobility of cars in mind. At the moment, their commitment is to micromobility, which is why they have launched various initiatives to promote these new ways of moving around the city: segregated lanes for pedestrians and cyclists, electric bikes, shuttle buses to the city centre, autonomous robots for the delivery of goods and shared vehicle services. The last thing they are testing is the use of drones.

Sonja Knopke, head of traffic in the German city of Mühlheim an der Ruhr (about 200,000 inhabitants), has pointed out that, despite some first bad experiences with electric scooters, her City Council decided to go for them. Thus, 450 units were authorised and, something fundamental, established 73 return points throughout the city. The result, as she explained, has been very positive, since there have been hardly any problems and very few accidents.

Karen Vancluysen, general secretary of Polis Network (the European network in which more than 90 cities and regions participate), has ensured that the main objective now is to avoid the use of private vehicles in the city. In his opinion, the keys are to bet on innovation, improve safety and reduce pollution. He has called for clear legislation and collaboration between the public and the private sector. He also pointed out that we should not go towards a fight between the different road users, but rather move towards “a fairer redistribution of public space” (until now, the car has been the main protagonist).” We want people to get out of the car and get on a scooter, and there multimobility and intermobility play a fundamental role,” she said.

The last to speak was Filippo Brunelleschi, Spin’s country manager, who pointed out the four pillars of the new mobility:

Broader concept of urban mobility.

Support to cities to find correct mobility solutions.

Autonomous and sustainable vehicles.

The role of technology.

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