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Micro Machines

The world’s most striking cities are almost certainly the most congested: whether London, New York, Istanbul, Paris, the list goes on. While Covid-19 related lockdowns led to a fall in traffic in our major cities, as things gradually, thankfully open again, roads are going to be packed once more.

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The world’s most striking cities are almost certainly the most congested: whether London, New York, Istanbul, Paris, the list goes on. While Covid-19 related lockdowns led to a fall in traffic in our major cities, as things gradually, thankfully open again, roads are going to be packed once more.

 

Congestion comes with a cost, both financial and environmental. A new report this week suggests almost one billion person hours are lost to congestion each year. This translates to a staggering €111 billion in GDP – more than the combined GDPs of Cyprus, Estonia, Latvia and Malta.

 

Micromobility has long been seen as an answer and has particular weight now as people perhaps wish to eschew packed underground trains and buses as much as possible. But this report, from sustainable energy innovation engine EIT InnoEnergy, suggests the first generation roll-out of micromobility technology has been poorly thought out. As Jennifer Dungs, the author of the report, puts it: “As a result, the vehicles did little to solve existing challenges such as air pollution, traffic jams, high noise levels or increasingly crowded urban centres. In fact, this has created new problems that have hurt the perception and the business case surrounding micromobility.”

 

The pandemic has shown that micromobility has gone from a nice-to-have to vital to a city’s post-Covid transport network. The report rightly argues that the approach to micromobility needs to be reset, bringing in better quality hardware and building it locally, greater recycling, developing bespoke vehicles and harnessing data in a more effective manner.

 

One added bonus of micromobility is somewhat intangible but is one of its greatest assets; using bikes is one of the best ways to experience a city. At present in many cities, this mode of travel is unwelcoming, dangerous and with little supporting infrastructure. But it offers the opportunity to get to know where you live in a way no other method of transport can.

 

Each year, Ride London closes the UK capital off to all kinds of traffic except bikes. There’s nothing like cycling past the Houses of Parliament and along the Mall. It opens your eyes to the joys of where you call home. Micromobility offers a similar opportunity. New kinds of technology and city policies can and should have economic and environmental benefits but they can deliver new experiences for citizens.

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