A walkable city

As widespread electrification of mobility arrives, there’s a debate ongoing about which source of renewable energy is most efficient in terms of accessibility, land use, impact on the local environment and ease of use. Scientists agree that proximity of production is a key factor to avoid transportation-related loss of power. Unfortunately, however, not every area has the same ability to produce clean energy and many are still dependent on the grid.

The same thing happens with mobility. There are areas with huge demands for mobility, and a grid of roads, rails and paths are how we, the ‘electrons’ that run society, move.

So, what’s the most efficient way of moving around? Well, that’s pretty easy: our oldest form of mobility, walking, is still the most efficient, accessible, uses less land and has the lowest environmental impact.

Therefore, we aim for a walkable city, where nothing is more than 10-15 minutes away, where there’s no need for cars, or even public transportation; a village-like city. This means having all the regular (daily, weekly, monthly) services and products within 1km of your home. How far are we from this goal, though? Well, a combination of car-free city centres initiatives and urban development focused on walkable paths is already allowing many European cities to start glimpsing this ideal.

Reality, though, is far more complex. According to an independent study by SD Worx, the average European worker commutes almost 15 km each way to work. That’s a long way from becoming a 15 minutes walk. And, whilst the pandemic and the new “work from home” trend may help towards this goal, we have adapted our lives to use motorized transportation and it is unlikely that this will change anytime soon.

Luckily, however, we have public transportation and new mobility tools that are helping the transition to a more environmentally friendly city.

But what happens in suburban and rural areas? Those lower density areas are unlikely to have all their needs covered within such a short range and are highly dependent on private cars. Lack of demand and infrastructure in those areas can be overcome by smarter approaches to meeting mobility needs. Here we believe demand-responsive transit like Shotl can save the day and become the cornerstone of shortening distances for those communities. At least, that is, until we reconfigure our lives to have everything within 1km of our homes.

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