Sustainable urban mobility through citizen participation

In a study conducted by McKinsey it was put forward that the number of so-called megacities, which are urban geographies with 10 million inhabitants and more, will only continue to grow. More people means more mobility. More mobility currently still means more individual mobility, which is not sustainable in the long run. Things need to change.

Citizen collaboration

To guarantee a future proof urban mobility infrastructure, collaboration between the different stakeholders is crucial. At the core of this much needed partnership are citizens. Which is logic, since ultimately the citizen will be the biggest winner of the urban mobility challenge. Needless to say that listening to and working together with citizens is key to overcome the hurdles and to build an infrastructure that can serve as the framework for the future.

Luckily other stakeholders understand this necessity as well. Concepts such as Infrastructure as a Service, Data as a Service and Mobility as a Service (see image below) aim to support decision-making that betters the current state of urban mobility. By reaching out and offering citizens data-backed insights and access to government funded collaborative platforms, the right paradigm is slowly but surely being created to effectively establish a citizen-centred urban mobility model.

Source: Urban Mobility LA

Central in this whole participatory framework is ensuring that the citizens know and feel that their voice is being heard and that it has a very important impact on the consequences and the actions taken by the other stakeholders. This will not only influence the success rate of innovative mobility measures, but it will also make the citizen responsible.

The importance of feedback loops

To allow for citizen participation within the context of urban mobility, establishing and following-up feedback loops is highly beneficial. It allows governments and private players to become more responsive service providers and at the same time establish mobility project evaluation standards that are citizen-driven.

Examples of citizen-centred feedback loop

CIVITAS, a project launched by the European Commission in 2002, is a network of cities for cities dedicated to cleaner and better transport in Europe and beyond. By creating a pan-European community focused on improving urban mobility, CIVITAS wants to ensure that as many stakeholders as possible are part of the discussion. CIVITAS even wrote a policy note on how to involve citizens in urban mobility projects in the context of SUMP (Sustainable Urban Mobility Planning).

The note puts forward that by using social media, governments can leverage the public opinion by tapping into the crowd. Using social platforms to ask questions and listen to what people have to say and think about certain ideas and actions really makes urban mobility a participatory endeavor. Creating space for citizen driven online action groups and freeing up resources for civic society networks that encourage the discussion between the people and the institutional players can really help in building a sustainable urban mobility framework.

Citizen Lab, a European startup, built an online platform that wants to make citizen participation easy. Through the platform cities can inform citizens on upcoming projects, collect feedback and make more citizen-driven decisions. Hoplr, another European startup, creates online communities where neighbors can discuss neighborhood related topics. Cities and private players can use this knowledge to better understand what is really ‘living’ in the community and act upon this.

Materialization of citizen-driven urban mobility projects

After gone through the feedback loop cycle, it is important to act and deliver. After all, it’s only by taking action that change can happen. Two real-life examples of better urban mobility solutions through citizen participation are cozycar, a Belgium based car sharing platform and Eurostop, a European carpooling network. Both make getting around within a specific context easier and more convenient.

Source: McKinsey and Company

Working together for a better future

The above makes it obvious that by working together and considering citizens as the core, the future of urban mobility is definitely reachable. At Mobility of the Future (#MOTF18) we want to create and facilitate a physical platform that allows for these collaborations. During the fair, visitors will experience the near future of mobility and to interact with experts present. The conference will give insights into the most recent developments in mobility, and will inform not only professionals, who are creating the future of mobility - but also urbanites, who are experiencing and co-creating it. 
During the hackathon, real business and government challenges will be presented. The teams working on those business cases, will receive coaching from experts in the field. At the end of the hackathon, they’ll present their solution, which will then be implemented, and thus improve the world of mobility as we know it now, and by doing so, being futureproof and stimulating innovation bottom-up.
We very kindly invite you to be part of the initiative and help us shape the future of urban mobility!

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