For resilient, sustainable city mobility after COVID-19, these trends must continue

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This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Michelle Watt, Global Leadership Fellow, Member of the Acceleration Team, World Economic Forum & Maya Ben Dror, Lead, Autonomous and Urban Mobility, Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution of the World Economic Forum


  • Multi-modality benefited both operators and users during COVID-19, but collaboration may not hold through the recovery.
  • Representatives from business and city governments recently came together by mobility platform #WeAllMove to discuss the trends they’d like to see continue as the world recovers from COVID-19.

Initial response efforts to the COVID-19 lockdown fueled surprising progress in the mobility space. Lockdowns reduced car traffic, encouraged walking and cycling and minimized emissions. One-of-a-kind partnerships emerged quickly between governments, private mobility operators and public transit systems.

With restrictions easing in many countries – and a return to using private vehicles – there is a risk the progress made in the past weeks may deteriorate. Stakeholders from Wunder Mobility, ShareNow, Voi Scooters, Kochen für Helden and the City of Oslo came together recently to discuss these issues and how to build on the positive mobility changes made during the COVID crisis. They were convened by #WeAllMove, a mobility service match-making platform launched in April by Wunder Mobility, leveraging multi-stakeholder collaboration in partnership with the World Economic Forum’s COVID Action Platform.

Maintaining positive momentum requires a willingness to adapt, an eagerness for further collaboration and deliberate effort from all parties involved. Here’s what these stakeholders had to say about big mobility wins they’d like to build on during the COVID-19 recovery:

Collaborations that unlock multi-modality

A range of different mobility options – from shared bikes, shared cars, and shared scooters – will be key to fostering a sustainable mobility system, stakeholders explained. Making those modalities work with each other has required the creation of new collaborations and relationships.

  • Conversations that forged trust
    Around the world, private mobility companies have begun asking cities and employers for guidance when responding to new demands to provide safe and sanitized mobility. Such conversations have laid the groundwork for trusting relationships that will serve these cities long after the COVID-19 crisis.
  • Collaborations that transformed commutes
    Businesses during the pandemic offered ways they could complement public transit, further encouraging multi-modality. They began offering vehicle rentals to essential workers at cost prices and replacing bus services in low capacity hours to save public monies. MOIA, FreeNow, Lyft, Uber and others started offering night services to reduce the strain on public transportation systems. Via, Didi, Zeelo and others have tailored services to frontline workers in partnership with public entities and hospitals.
  • Efforts that removed barriers to mobility modes
    Additionally, businesses and governments have been working together to remove barriers between mobility modes to support safer transit during the COVID-19 pandemic. The city of Oslo is working with e-scooter operators on regulations to ensure the city provides efficient mobility solutions for shorter distances and has dedicated hundreds of public parking spaces for shared cars. Hong Kong MTR partnered with multimodal companies to complement its transit services, and the UK is investing in a £2 billion support package to develop cycling and pedestrian infrastructure, and have e-scooter trials fast-tracked in all local areas across the country to help encourage more people towards greener alternatives.
  • Thinking that helped reimagine city streets
    Other creative solutions ensured walking, cycling and micro-mobility was a realistic transportation option in a human-centred street design. They ranged from pop-up bike lanes in Milan, Paris, Berlin and Budapest to free bicycle repair stations in all districts of the city of Oslo in collaboration with local bike mechanics. Cities converted sidewalks and on-street parking to support outdoor dining and curb-side food pick up.
  • Platforms that brought stakeholders together
    Relief efforts also inspired businesses to work together in new ways. As restaurants were forced to close and ingredients began to spoil, one group of culinary innovators sought out mobility partners via the #WeAllMove platform to help them gift food to those in need.

Such rapid cooperation is improving the safety and sustainability of mobility within cities and leading the way for the level of cooperation needed for a zero-emission future. “We fundamentally believe that all the modes have to work together” shared Simon Broesamle, Chief Business Development Officer at Share Now, and a partner of #WeAllMove. “We (mobility providers) have to partner with the cities, the government, the regulators and all of the different private companies to really make this work and create an environment where people can move around the cities and communities in a safe and sustainable way.”

Kristina Hunter Nilsson, Vice President Communications at electric scooter company Voi hopes the industry will continue to strengthen these relationships. “There have been partnerships that maybe we wouldn’t have thought about or might have taken longer.” She adds: “We want to keep up a lot of the positive habits that we have now seen develop.”

Mobility

What is the World Economic Forum doing about mobility?

Mobility systems must be resilient, safe, inclusive, responsive, and sustainable. This is why #WeAllMove, a mobility service match-making platform, launched April 2020 by Wunder Mobility in partnership with the World Economic Forum COVID Action Platform. The platform highlights the importance of leveraging multi-stakeholder collaboration across governments, providers, commuters and more

#WeAllMove consolidates information about a variety of mobility options available in any city, from mode share, to ride share and transit. The independent platform, co-hosted by mobility providers operating globally, will integrate private, public and joint mobility services into a single search and output engine, ensuring a better “new mobility normal” can be forged, regardless of the crisis ahead.

Since its launch April 2020, it has grown to include 130 mobility service providers offering tailored services in over 300 cities and 40 countries. By bringing public and private stakeholders together, the platform can ensure business continuity for an array of mobility providers, and help secure jobs and services that depend on mobility.

New ways to meet future needs

As cities ease COVID-19 stay at-home restrictions, cities worry that progress toward sustainability could disappear. For example, as Oslo has gradually reopened, the city has already seen car traffic return to pre-COVID-19 levels. This is particularly noteworthy in a city like Oslo whose efforts to create a bike- and pedestrian-friendly city reduced pedestrian and cyclist traffic fatalities to zero while boosting usage of bikes and scooters. With even more ambitious goals for the future, the city is keen not to lose the gains it has made. “How can we make sure we do not turn the clock back as it were?” posed Nilsson.

Meeting new and shifting needs will require the willingness to take on new perspectives. To this end, Oslo has a headstart, with experience leveraging different approaches and even looking at mobility “from a child’s point of view” to test whether a street truly served everyone, says Andrine Gran, Micromobility Manager of the City of Oslo. (Such an approach helped inspire initiatives such as car-free streets near schools in the Norwegian capital.)

“It’s more important to ask the right questions rather than to look for yesterday’s answer.”

—Andrine Gran, Micromobility Manager of the City of Oslo

Such willingness to ask new questions and resist tried-and-true solutions will be essential in the months to come. “In Oslo, we have already learned and copied a lot from other cities to come this far,” said Gran. “To meet the challenges for the future, it’s more important than ever to be inspired and learn about the good solutions to reach our goals. We are entering a time where it’s more important to ask the right questions rather than to look for yesterday’s answer to plan for the future.”

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