© Eugène Franken
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Recently I dove back into the chaos of metropolitan Rome traffic. And on a state-of-the-art e-bike: ‘Only €1 to unlock, then €0.23/min*. Download the app, sign up and scan the QR code to find deals in your city! We accept all popular payment methods and local favorites.

Rides like these continue to be a revelation. The ever-ubiquitous motorists with their choking exhaust fumes suddenly seem bizarrely completely out of place. What are they doing there? Just go and ride a bike for goodness sake! The current system, which is overwhelmingly geared to the mobility of automobiles, is an incomprehensible anachronism. Our urban spatial planning is increasingly inadequate for the new reality with its wide variety of innovative transport. A different spatial planning is desperately needed so that everyone using the roads feel more at ease and safer. Moreover, a city with a good balance between accessibility, sustainability, liveability and safety just functions much better.

E-bike mobility

As a fan of the e-bike, which seems to me to be most useful in the mix of multimodal mobility considering the skyrocketing demand for intricate transportation. I wonder how you can best capitalize on that inevitable achievement.

E-bike mobility as a service is such a convenient solution for making personal trips in unfamiliar surroundings where you don’t have your own means of transport on hand. As I found out once again in the Eternal City. It offers the (obviously intended) utterly enjoyable novelty of being able to navigate your way through pedestrians on your cool bike with a slightly euphoric feeling of exaltation.

Your phone held in a solid holder which allows you to navigate easily turns out to be charging wirelessly. An adjustable saddle. All part of a quality-oriented design. Robust enough to transform the terrible state of the maintenance of the roads into a joy of being mobile.

Urban stress

All of this comes at a price, of course. Yes, the technology automatically slows you down and speeds you up where it should or can, but it also tells you where to park and hands out fines if you (un)consciously fail to follow those rules. Plus, there is always a certain degree of urban stress. You have to pay extra if you exceed the ride time. Will I be able to find a bike for the way back? Especially if you are with more people, it can take a while to find a bike for each person again.

In any case, this is a fragmented system with limited capacity. A few thousand bikes from goodness knows how many providers scattered throughout the city getting in the way. Is it solving anything? Does it actually create a problem or is it merely a revenue model?

Foolhardy riding behavior

A little bit of everything, of course. Yes, the e-bike replaces trips that normally use heavier means of transport. But without zoning and bicycle infrastructure, traffic is not all of a sudden safer. When it rains, you get wet and the road surface is dangerously slippery. You have to have a phone with an internet connection as well as a credit card. So what about matters such as segregation and inclusivity?

Sabotaging passersby turn the baskets on parked bikes into overflowing trash cans in no time at all. Disapproving looks and comments from locals, for whom this is far too expensive for day-to-day use are seeing their already overcrowded city overwhelmed even further by people gleefully riding around like idiots.

Connecting the Dotts

This will only become more and more the case in the foreseeable future. The huge business market for the operation of e-bikes has now opened up due to the structural demand for micro-mobility. And that is going to continue to grow due to the explosion of in-home deliveries through e-commerce sales. So that following a period of rampant proliferation, the transportation of people and goods can be made more efficient, inclusive, and sustainable. This in principle should free up enough capital to pay for the adjustments that the city needs. Just a matter of connecting The Dotts.

About this column: 

In a weekly column, alternately written by Eveline van Zeeland, Derek jan Fikkers, Eugene Franken, Katleen Gabriels, PG Kroeger, Carina Weijma, Bernd Maier-Leppla, Willemijn Brouwer and Colinda de Beer, Innovation Origins tries to figure out what the future will look like. These columnists, sometimes joined by guest bloggers, are all working in their own way to find solutions to the problems of our time. So tomorrow will be good. Here are all the previous articles.