Slow Mobility: “You can’t buy happiness, but riding a bike brings you pretty close”

With public health and the liveability of cities in mind, authorities are creating space for slow mobility when it comes to urban development. Innovation and design alters the experience of slow mobility to new levels.

• On top of that a new breed of technologies (combining pedal power and electricity) can increase speed and preference.

• A new wave of (social) economy can grow to cater users of the new infrastructure.

• There is a large innovation potential in the synergy of bike lanes, e-bikes and bike sharing schemes.

• Investment in bike infrastructure leads to less pressure on traffic, more health and more attractive cities for tourists.

The bike is often the best way to arrive anywhere.

Transport use will continue to significantly transform. People increasingly refrain from using or owning cars and engage in other forms of transport: combining modes of travel, car sharing, public transport, and … slow traffic. Slow or non-motorized traffic is mainly synonymous to cycling and walking. But also skating or moving with vehicle-like devices fall in this category.

Globally, individual mobility is still very much determined by the use of cars with internal combustion engines. Motorised individual transport makes up nearly 50% of the global mobility market which – in terms of expenditures – amounts to EUR 6.4 trillion in 2010 or around 1,000 EUR per person.

Top efficiency

While mobility expenses continues to rise, the mobile society of tomorrow is not determined by top speed but by the mode of transportation that allows us to arrive best at our destination. Traffic tends to be so bad that at rush hour cars hardly move at all. Especially in (mega) cities and metropolitan areas like London or Berlin the average speed of auto-mobility tends to decrease.

To our good health

Slow traffic has a significant, still untapped potential to improve a city’s transport system, while at the same time protecting the environment, improving the air quality, reducing noise and CO2 emissions. In addition, it reinforces sustainable tourism, leading to savings in the public and private expenditure for mobility.

The bike rules

In a slow traffic culture, the bicycle gains importance to move across the city. Apart from being practical, innovations have made cycling more attractive and safer. Therefore, in coming years the market will experience a sustained boom. Today there are 70 million bikes in Germany alone; more than 4 million of them were sold in 2011 – worth 2 billion Euros. 15% of all roads in Germany are already accessible to biking. In comparison, leading bicycle nations Denmark and the Netherlands can only boast a little over 18%.

Even more so than renting cars, renting a bicycle is far better than owning one. From free rental for short distances of up to half an hour to user-friendly registered use for people who need a bike for a longer period of time, the success of the municipal projects worldwide shows that innovative and flexible bicycle rental initiatives have yet to reach their full market potential. The boom of the bike in the public space will bring a diverse service and lifestyle culture with them. Urban planners must also react to the new cyclists, as well as the tourism industry, hospitality or leisure industry.
The idea to get wet, keeps people from biking. This changes if we would put a roof on top of bike lines. (Flanders Bike Valley)

Time is the most important argument to swap a car for an e-bike. This argument will become more powerful if car congestion in Belgium will increase (Both Belgium cities Brussels and Antwerp are worldwide number one and two when it comes to traffic jam hours), cars will be slower, and e-bikes will become faster, be cheaper, and able to ride longer.

The main obstacle is the risk of getting wet through rain. That would change if cities would invest in roofed biking highways. In Korea, there are already some roofed bike lines, which harness power from solar panels. The power can be transmitted to the e-bike trough induction. In Belgium, a roofed bike highway is to be released (by Bike Valley, a Flemish bike technology incubator) to connect the Antwerp Ring with the bike-line that follows the Albert Canal. This will allow commuters from the East of Flanders to commute to Antwerp by e-bike. Next to charging facilities, other economic activities can be exploited such as coffee bars, or third places to co-work.

  • Laura Bliss, How Vancouver became North America’s car-free capital,, 05/12/2016
  • Renate Van der Zee, How Groningen invented a cycling template for cities all over the world, 29/07/2016
  • Stephen Moss, End of the car age: how cities are outgrowing the automobile, 28/06/2015

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