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Mobilising the Future

Posted by Roland Harwood (Admin) Feb 9, 2016

Now that this community has been running for a few weeks, I just wanted to share a bit more context for why we are so interested in these topics right now.

The future of mobility and transportation is changing fast and all sorts of organisations from tech companies, to car companies, to city leaders are in a race to find the new solutions that will transform the way we get around.

Mobilising the Future

If you own a car, have you considered if and when you will ever need to replace it? This is a question I’ve been asking myself recently as our current car (a VW Touran) has perhaps 2 years life left in it.

Before we had kids we only used car sharing quite a bit (Streetcar, now Zipcar) and more traditional car hire for longer journeys, and it worked well.

Since we’ve had 3 kids, the hassle of fitting and removing car seats compared with unpredictability of being able to get out of the house at a specific time has meant it’s been easier to own a car. However as the kids are growing up and the rise of Mobility as a Service becoming mainstream, I’m genuinely not sure if we’ll ever need to own a car ever again.

And, like many people who live in cities, it costs a lot of upkeep to own a car which increasingly makes no sense given that we don’t use it much. And with the exponential rise of the likes of new services over the past few years it’s already been shown that it’s cheaper to use Uber and Zipcar than owning a car for many people in cities.

Another interesting factor to consider is around what an emotional purchase a car is and the importance of status associated with car ownership. But is it really enough to buy a car in order to project your individuality? I don’t think it is for me any more but it’s interesting to explore the role of status and emotion in relation to transport without actually having to own a vehicle. 

“Helsinki announced plans to remove the need for car ownership in the city by 2025.” Atkins Journeys of Future Report

I for one am an avid cyclist most of the time, which is without question the best way to get around town 98% of the time in my view. And I’m increasingly frustrated with the inefficiency of the car as a mode of transport, as whatever is gained in terms of autonomy is eroded completely in terms of efficiency, as brilliantly illustrated in this illustration of 200 people in 177 cars:

According to IBM 30% of traffic in cities is due to people looking for a parking spaceThis is collective insanity and requires collective action to sort it all out.

200 people in cars and without cars

For all of these reasons we are really excited to be collaborating with all of you on The Movement and thanks for all of your contributions on this community to date. In the coming weeks we'll start to focus in on the most interesting opportunities and start to build and prototype some potential new services and solutions, and I am eager to see what we can come with together.

This post was edited on Feb 9, 2016 by Roland Harwood

This post has 6 subscribers

Comments (50)

Janet Bradley says... Feb 10, 2016

It is very much down to circumstances and where you rural areas life is impossible without a car... I love to bike too, would love to see a better infrastructure for the humble cycle.

Roland Harwood says... Feb 11, 2016

Thanks aster1x. Yes completely agree about better cycling infrastructure. Have a look at the awful but amusing examples from the Warrington Cycling Campaign here:

Janet Bradley says... Feb 12, 2016

I have enjoyed looking at that site!! I wish we had an infrastructure like the Netherlands!

Katie100 says... Feb 12, 2016

Wow that is superdry humour - love it, really funny!

Fiona Boubert says... Feb 14, 2016

I have their book Crap Cycle Lane's, town planning gone mad lol!

Gill Chedgey says... Feb 10, 2016

I found this post fascinating. I loved the photo for a start. To reduce the number of vehicles nationally would be an immense step forward for the greater good. The environment would benefit. The emergency services would benefit. The NHS would benefit. People might slowly become fitter. Stress levels may reduce. And so on.


But there is a downside. There might be job losses in the motor industry. Would petrol pump prices rise as fewer people required fuel? And would motor insurance premiums for those who retained their vehicles rise?


It grieves me to say this but I fear that great numbers of people are not interested in the greater good, they are interest in their own good - it’s human nature. For many people their car is a status symbol, more than just getting from A to B. For people to give up their motor cars the incentive would have to be immense. An efficient, reliable, regular, accessible public transport system the like of which we have never seen before, a network of ‘super cycle’ routes that make cycling safe and desirable just for starters. 



And there are areas too rural, too remote, for people to live their contemporary lives without cars. It would be great to see large towns and cities go as car free as possible but I fear we are a long way from achieving that mindset.

Roland Harwood says... Feb 11, 2016

Thanks Whizz. Appreciate those points. Re the NHS I also heard a statistic the other day that 30% of traffic in Birmingham is due to the NHS which is another mind boggling statistic. Re the jobs point, I do take your point and agree that's important but I imagine new jobs would be created in new industries as a result but the transition wouldn't necessarily be easy. I think the status point is fascinating. Car adverts sell us a dream of driving on empty roads in beautiful scenery, however the reality is almost never anything like that, crawling through the rush hour for instance. To arrive faster, easier, more cheaply via another mode of transport could be a bigger sign of pride and status than it is now. Rural areas are a big challenge but I think we will inevitably move towards almost car free city centres in the future

Nicky Griffiths says... Feb 10, 2016

When my husband was studying environmental topics with the Open University 30 years ago or so, it was predicted that by now the world would have run out of fuel and we would no longer be driving cars! Personally, we no longer own a car - when we think of all the money we've spent on them over the years we don't want to waste any more! We live 2 miles from the town centre so normally walk but there is a bus service if needed. My husband has recently been cycling 27 miles a day, the round trip to work and back, but has now bought a motorbike mainly for safety reasons - car drivers not respecting cyclists etc.

If we do want to go anywhere, we hire a car for around £25 per day.

I love the pictures above without the cars, makes the place seem much calmer!

Roland Harwood says... Feb 11, 2016

Good for you Grandmanicky. I'm sure you've saved a huge amount over the years. I'm very tempted not to get a new car once my current one 'runs out' as it were, partly because of the huge cost savings 

Fiona Boubert says... Feb 10, 2016

Hi Roland.

Thanks for your update, it made for very interesting reading. I loved the images, they have great impact and it would be interesting to put them on social media and see the reaction.

I travelled to work by car for many years but for the past 15 months have been predominantly a bus commuter. This change was prompted by a number of factors:

Change of job role: from mainly based in one office to a much more mobile role with a higher percentage of meetings within my own city

Cost factors: I pay £50 for a monthly travel card. Previously I was spending about £200 per month on petrol. this is now down to £20-£30 per month on average. I also use my car less for personal journeys, I never take it into the city centre as parking costs are prohibitive and use public transport much more. If I used my car for work journeys I had to pay for business car insurance and the mileage allowance did not cover petrol, insurance and wear and tear so it cost me money.

Car Mileage Restrictions: I pay for my car through Ford Options and have a mileage allowance and I did not want to use that up on purely work related journeys.

Fitness: I was conscious of the fact that I was really unfit and travelling by bus I walk much more and get fresh air.

I have thought about not having a car but it can be useful for transporting large or heavy items, it gives you access to rural locations and freedom to travel when you want and I sometimes have to transport elderly parents.

I would cycle but we live at the top of a series of large hills, its great going down but a nightmare getting up again!

I would not say I had a strong green focus in my reasons for reducing my driving but I am aware of the impact.

Interestingly my son is 22 and has not learned to drive yet. He has been studying at Cambridge University since he was 18 and cycles everywhere. He also did this when he was at school. He recognises that it may be useful to drive at some point but is quite happy cycling or using public transport.

Roland Harwood says... Feb 11, 2016

Hi Ironmaiden. Thanks for your comment. Interesting how your mode of travel has changed recently and thanks for sharing the calculations behind your decision making. Not sure there is much we can do about cycling and hills (apart from batteries kicking in on the incline). And the green focus point is important too. I don't think anybody would switch just for the greater good if it didn't make sense on a personal level first, either for fitness, or finance or efficiency reasons. R

Aran Rees says... Feb 12, 2016
It's sometimes instructive to begin by unpacking the question. Why exactly do we go anywhere? Transport is a means to an end, not an end in itself. If we are travelling for work, does it make sense to do so? Do I need to go and get my shopping or can it come to me? Am I travelling alone or do others need to go to the same place at the same time? All this is why I think the future of transport isn't about the cars and trains, it's about connected devices and AI and I believe it's the humble calendar app that could
Aran Rees says... Feb 12, 2016
edit: accidental early post... As I was saying... The humble calendar app could be the key. Transport is merely a way to get from one activity to the next. Instead of planning journeys, if we plan our time we should let our connected devices and AI plan the optimal means of travel, even shifting meetings and events slightly to allow the collectively optimum logistics. Imagine an app that I could talk to. I tell
Katie100 says... Feb 12, 2016

P.S.  please consider posting this an an idea post in one of the challenges, thanks!

Aran Rees says... Feb 12, 2016
... It my requirements
Aran Rees says... Feb 12, 2016
OK, far too easy to accidentally post on here when using Safari for iOS. ... I tell it my requirements and who else is involved. I tell it the type of location I need, necessary amenities or preferred atmosphere, and this app combines this data with my work colleagues needs, the movement of traffic and available transport methods, and then plans my day/week/month for me, placing meetings and setting transport needs. No more back and forth to figure out where and when to do something only to discover that it would have saved a lot of hassle just to meet the following week or what have you.
Katie100 says... Feb 12, 2016

Hi Aran, thanks for posting comments here - I think I have to say big welcome too, I feel like we've not met previously. I will try to tidy up your posts here but don't worry - this is all way more about content than presentation. 

Gill Chedgey says... Feb 12, 2016

Like a Siri type application but more sophisticated?

Roland Harwood says... Feb 12, 2016


Thanks for the reply (replies) Aran. Yes take the point and regarding the app that orgnises my life/calendar I seem to recall a demo of a few years ago that did something similar. Doesn't appear to have taken off though so scheduling still remains one of those difficult things in life, especially with more than 2 people. Anyway, re your bigger question about what travel is for, I would say for me at least that travel is as much an end in itself as a functional thing. It's fun/exciting/relaxing. Life's a journey etc...

susan Humphries says... Feb 12, 2016

It is okay for someone living in the city concerned to have no car and use public transport but with the ridiculous cost of public transport for covering long distance we drive to see our adult children in London. We do park near them and use a parking permit but some may not have this luxury. There is no park and ride for London. Tricky to find an easy solution really for places like that which do not have easy pubic transport links that are affordable.


Car sharing should be more easily arranged - they seem to have car pooling in the USA. that would save some duplicated journeys

Roland Harwood says... Feb 15, 2016

Take the point hsusan and thanks for replying. I wonder why a big city like London doesn't have a park and ride. I suppose that what the underground and overground train network essentially functions as in some ways but it's often very expensive to park in those satellite town train stations. 

joanna butler-savage says... Feb 12, 2016
I would happily use cheap efficient buses as they had on my recent trip to Munich. People are treated as just that and we were allowed to speak!
Belinda Blackburn says... Feb 13, 2016

I would love to have the choice of alternative transport options, however my job demands I am fully mobile & able to access rural locations, also a RTA left me with reduced mobility which make bicycles & public transport an impossibilty

Roland Harwood says... Feb 15, 2016

Sorry to hear that BJB. Yes that makes sense and is complicated if you don't necessarily know where you need to go, means you have no option but to use a car I guess. One thing that might help is knowing up front if there is a taxi rank/service at a rural train station when you get off and being easily able to book one en route

donna anderson says... Feb 13, 2016

my friend has had 4 cars in 3 years and she is sick of them falling to pieces despite her care and safe driving however when she sees my misery on some buses she cant imagine being without one

i cant see myself driving but the cutting of routes in our area makes me fear for the bus which is the best way for me to get around, i am sure some people will worry that they will give up a car for a hellish commute and then the commute route will be gone, so much instability nowadays and nothing is a given

Roland Harwood says... Feb 15, 2016

Hi Baobao. That sound expensive! 4 cars in 3 years! Fingers crossed they don't cut your bus route...

KEVIN TURNER says... Feb 13, 2016

I am an avid anti cyclist (sorry) I will always prefer my car over a cycle. I see it every day in my work 99.9% of them have no disregard for other road users or pedestrians. They are unable to tell green from red and if I have an accident with one and it is his/her fault I hope they have insurance for when I sue them. On a Sunday when they are out in packs they think its funny to hold up traffic when they could easily pull over but they are too busy chatting to their mates. Those with head cams on need to look at them not only for others making bad judgments but themselves. I said 99.9% are bad  and I stick to this 

Nicky Griffiths says... Feb 14, 2016

Yorky, I and all of the thousands of other sensible cyclists out there take our lives in our hands when we venture out on to the roads. We know who would come off worse in an accident so are very wary of traffic, as a lot of drivers do not respect cyclists at all. As for pedestrians, I was once knocked off my bike by one who stepped out in front of me and there have been several near misses. Is there any chance you could go out on a bike to see things from the other perspective? Several people on this site provide negative comments without trying to come up with a solution.

Roland Harwood says... Feb 15, 2016

Hi Grandmanicky. Absolutely agree - I normally assume I'm invisible on my bike and don't ever take for granted that anybody can see me, whether a driver or a pedestrian. Seems to work out ok so far that way but doesn't seem right. And yes I have pedestrians stepping out in front of me on a daily basis so look out for it. I think they are navigating by sound rather than sight so the fact that I'm virtually silent means they think nobody is on the road. The same issue applies to electric cars which is why they make them have an annoying noise these days. 

KEVIN TURNER says... Feb 29, 2016

And when you are knocked of your bike it will of course be the drivers fault

KEVIN TURNER says... Feb 29, 2016

I have had to follow cyclists for over 2 miles down lanes in my bus and they will not pull over even when they can and ride 2 abreast yakking to each other

Roland Harwood says... Feb 15, 2016

Hi Yorky. I'm an avid cyclist but agree that a lot of cyclists don't obey the rules of the road which isn't great and gives a bad impression. I would say that compared to various other countries, the UK really isn't very well suited towards cycling. It is surprising that there is little accountability for bad cycling though, however I wonder if that will change in the future with apps that track your movement and how good a cyclist/driver people actually are.

S B says... Feb 14, 2016

I never had a car when I lived in London & it is very possible to get around any city without one. Most of my friends did not have a car either & just saw them as an extra expence & source of stress. We need more bus routes etc rather than cutting them & public transport fares should be reduced to encourage people to leave their cars at home.

Roland Harwood says... Feb 15, 2016

I love getting a bus too but they can get horribly stuck in traffic sometimes so not always very reliable. I suspect city centres will increasingly be car free in future

susan Humphries says... Feb 19, 2016

I cannot understand why cyclists cannot use the pavements in out of town areas as a cyclist hitting a pedestrian is far less likely to cause death than a car hitting a cyclist. most pavements out of town are rarely used so it seems a sensible suggestion to me.

Denise Bennett says... Feb 20, 2016

I think it was Gordon Broon who promised so many new cycle tracks everywhere in Britain. Do any cyclists know if this materialized or not?

Nicky Griffiths says... Feb 20, 2016

No Dennie it didn't. There are bits of tracks here and there but they don't join up to make sensible routes. Yet the government boast that they have put in so many miles of cycle routes! Where I used to live they made a cycle path which went about 20 yards then stopped, wonder how many thousands they spent doing that! 

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Denise Bennett says... Feb 20, 2016

I thought as much,  it was the same with reservoirs, they never materialized either.

Steph Meachen says... Feb 27, 2016

Thank you for my reward for my post. How do I claim it?

Nicky Griffiths says... Feb 27, 2016

Last time mine came straight away, I guess we may have to wait a bit longer with Katie on holiday x

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Gina LoBuglio says... Feb 29, 2016

Hi Smeachen and Grandmanicky, your vouchers went out yesterday - hope you've received them ok. :-) 


Nicky Griffiths says... Feb 29, 2016

Yes thank you Gina, received mine last evening x

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Gina LoBuglio says... Feb 29, 2016

Excellent, thanks Grandmanicky. Our Katie has left some mighty big shoes to fill but I will do my best! :-)

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KEVIN TURNER says... Feb 29, 2016

As a driver I find cyclists have no respect for the laws of the road, the amount of times they come up on the inside of me and they have a problem with colours when it comes to traffic lights. It is not the minority of cyclists its the majority. Yes I do ride a bike and when I cycle I think of others

Gina LoBuglio says... Feb 29, 2016

Hi Yorky, I live in London and absolutely love the idea of cycling to avoid the crush at peak commute times but I'm afraid that I am not as brave as a lot of Londoners. I have heard too many horror stories and would personally feel too vulnerable.

So, now that I have outed myself as not being a cyclist, you can take what I am about to say with a grain of salt. I like to think that I would be a very considerate, law abiding cyclist. I don't own a car so rely solely on public transport or my own two feet. I find that some cyclists do jump lights, ride on the pavement, or aggressively overtake on paths through my local Common which is not only annoying but can be downright dangerous. Because I find this kind of behaviour so off-putting, I would make a concerted effort to be a considerate cyclist. Ultimately, we are sharing the road with all manners of transport (I saw a woman riding her mobility scooter across Waterloo Bridge a few weeks ago) and we should always be aware/considerate of the people/modes of transport that we share with.

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Nicky Griffiths says... Feb 29, 2016

Yes Gina, we had similar comments from Yorky about 2 weeks ago, Roland and I replied (see above).

KEVIN TURNER says... Feb 29, 2016

If I have an accident with a cyclist he/ she better have good insurance 

joanna butler-savage says... Mar 1, 2016

i love the idea of being car free in summer - i would be able to complete a lot of my journeys without it but you cannot beat the convenience of a car with 3 kids and all their baggage in the winter when it is chucking it down.

Gina LoBuglio says... Mar 2, 2016

Hi Jbsguapa, I only had one child and we've only had access to a car sporadically over his lifetime (he's now gone to university) but I completely support the idea that with three kids, a car is more of a necessity than a luxury! 

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KEVIN TURNER says... Mar 13, 2016

How do I start a conversation if I have a topic?

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