Personal mobility – A sustainability journey

Most people will think ‘cars’ when reading this blog’s headline, but there are many other forms of personal transportation. In the Netherlands, many people use bicycles to go to work. In neighbouring Belgium, people will think twice before considering riding a bicycle inside a city, because of a lack of bicycle paths and because Belgian car drivers are not accustomed to sharing the road with cyclists. Italians, and especially those in crowed cities, love their Vespas because public transportation is not well organized, fuel costs are high, and the climate is favourable. In the United States, people don’t mind driving long distances and in some cities, such as Denver and Houston, it is almost impossible to go from one place to another without a car. In general in the US, cars and fuel are more affordable than in Europe or Japan. In some Chinese cities, such as Beijing, people think twice before using bicycles because of health reasons. This is despite the fact that China used to be known as the “bicycle capital of the world” and had put car restriction policies in place to control congestion and smog. Personal mobility modes and choices vary greatly between countries and within countries.

Over the next 2 years or so, this blog will focus on drivers of sustainable personal mobility, including:

  1. Projections of cars worldwide: According to International Energy Agency (iea.org), an OECD organisation, by the end of 2010 the number of cars in use surpassed 1 billion. By 2035 this number could double. What drives car ownership? Population growth, urbanization, and economic growth are all factors that contribute to increased levels of the number of cars.
  2. Unsustainability of personal mobility: In its 2007 report, the IPCC estimates that transportation contributes to about 13% of CO2 emissions. While this includes public transportation, shipping and heavy trucks, it is a significant contributor to climate change.
  3. Regulatory factors: such as EURO norms and CAFE standards, taxation of cars, toll roads, congestion charges, fuel prices and their implications.
  4. Technology and efficiency: the evolution of ICE cars, hybrid cars, and electric vehicles, driverless cars, new forms of personal mobility, e.g., Toyota i-Road microcar, battery storage, fuel cells, electric vehicle charging, etc.
  5. Social trends: different ownership models including leasing, bicycle sharing (Vélib, petit Vélib) and car sharing (Zipcar, Car2Go, Uber) schemes. Personal mobility sharing schemes are growing exponentially, especially bike sharing. See map (www.bikesharingworld.com).

These are some of the dimensions that we will be exploring in this blog. Anything major missing? Let me know.