Piloting cargo bikes to study Oslo’s combined mobility needs

We teamed up with Hertz Bilpool to fill a gap in Oslo’s mobility landscape. Here’s what we’re hoping to learn.

Floating around on event stages and in industry think pieces, “MaaS” (mobility-as-a-service) is a term that’s often named as the answer to efficient urban mobility. While promising in theory, the concept has so far struggled to produce large scale and well-functioning examples. What does mobility as a service really mean? And how can it be designed to create real changes in travel behavior?

These are some of the questions Urban Sharing is working to answer, and we’re doing so by getting down to the street level to test how users actually behave when provided with seamless access to combined mobility. Through a design project with Hertz Bilpool (Hertz’s carpool service), we’re exploring how multimodal mobility can function effectively in Oslo.

The fundamental philosophy behind MaaS is to offer a one-stop, on-demand, multi-modal mobility service based on the individual’s travel needs. Yet in many implementations, the focus is placed on who is providing the service, rather than how the combined service actually functions. Urban Sharing and Hertz are most interested in how transitions between mobility services can be improved in ways that benefit the user, the city, and the mobility providers. We hope to arrive at findings that allow us to adapt our individual services to support these needs in a holistic way.

The collaboration project is part of the Design-Driven Innovation Program (DIP), a grant opportunity that finds creative and innovative ways to improve products and services for Norwegian businesses. The conceptual phase for this project began in November 2017 with the help of Oslo-based Iterate, which specializes in business and system development and design. The designers created a plan for the research phases, drew up examples of how combined mobility in Oslo can look, and designed the pilot test. User groups helped to develop complementary ideas from various perspectives.

Now, after over a year of planning, the project will culminate in a pilot test that involves four electric cargo bikes. Available for short-term hires, our cargo bikes will be featured as a new shared asset alongside Hertz’s carpool service. By filling a gap in the city’s shared mobility landscape (namely, for this times when transport needs fall somewhere between a bike and a car) we will measure how users behave when provided with this additional option, and at what point in the user journey this shift happens.

The electric cargo bikes are being tested in Vulkan, a rapidly growing area for residential and business development. Anne-Cathrine de Lange, who represents Aspelin Ramm Eiendom at Vulkan, believes that the neighborhood is ideal for shared infrastructure, and says they “are pleased to have even more mobility offers for the area.”

One of the shared Hertz Bilpool cars stands alongside one of our shared electric cargo bikes at Vulkan. This proximity creates a “mobility hub” that allows locals to quickly transfer between the two transport modes.

The cargo bikes feature Urban Sharing’s custom lock controller, which is also used on our city bikes in Bergen, Trondheim, and Edinburgh. This technology allows users to pause their trip during the borrow period by locking the bike to itself. This is our first launch of the pause function, which is especially useful in the context of the cargo bikes, for example when users need to load or unload cargo during their trip.

Pay-as-you-go subscriptions are available for purchase on the website and app (iOS and Android). Users can borrow the bikes from the designed parking spot at Vulkan next to the Hertz Bilpool fleet.

From a development perspective, adding cargo bikes to our fleet gives Urban Sharing the opportunity to test other vehicles on our platform, which we’re actively expanding beyond traditional bike sharing. The cargo bikes are branded with Oslo City Bike’s distinctive logo, which helps to visually signal their purpose as a form of shared mobility infrastructure. Yet as a vehicle that meets different needs, this project allows us to challenge our technology and operations routines in new ways.

Eivind Thorne, a representative of Hertz BilPool, says that “the possibility to show visible transfers between different modes of transport through combined mobility is essential for our products. We hope to learn more about what the public needs to reduce private car ownership.”

This project is based on open collaboration, and all data and findings will be shared openly. Much of what we’re hoping to solve, and the ways in which we will implement our solutions, will be directly transferable to other combined mobility contexts both in Norway and abroad. By collaborating with other suppliers to fill a gap in the user journey, we hope to learn how we can make shared mobility more attractive and accessible.