Cities in the UK are home to almost 85% of the population and are a hive of innovation and business opportunities. However, they are also marred by bureaucracy and aging infrastructure. In a post‑lockdown era people, goods and services will move in a very different way, driven by new political agendas and consumer behavioural change – creating disruption, added complication, but even greater opportunity.

New cycle lanes will replace old road networks. The UK government is creating a £2 billion package to create a new age for cycling and walking. Local authorities will want to do their bit but will have to balance consumer and business needs.

A desire to see less pollution in our cities will lead to more diesel vehicle bans as well as the expansion of congestion and low emission zones – we’ve already seen the London Congestion Charge brought back and increased to £15. However, driving people out of their cars and off of public transport may lead to different transport headaches – how will people get around? Not everyone will be prepared to jump on a bike or scooter.

Rush hour as we know it will evolve as new working practices come into play. Rush hour now lasts all day and looks set to get worse as people step off public transport. This will create opportunities to support commuters with big data to help them avoid congestion.

People will start to move around differently, with citizens looking to get off public transport and find alternative ways of getting around. We will see an increase of walkers, cyclists and scooter riders – offering a great opportunity, but one that is highly regulated and fraught with complexity. However, governments will have to deregulate to speed up the speed of change – this has been seen recently with the introduction of e-scooter trial zones.

Even retail and deliveries will change as consumers buy more online – for example, the online grocery market is now forecast to grow 25.5% in 2020. With this sort of exponential growth comes greater competition, increased demands from consumers (such as sustainable offerings and same‑day deliveries) and a fight for cargo space.

As a society, we are used to jumping in our cars (or onto public transport) to go to the shops, take our kids to school or pop to the gym – transport infrastructure has been built around us being able to travel long distances to access to these places. Yet, as cities look to re-shape themselves, communities and the way we access these goods and services will also have to be re-imagined. A number of cities are already envisioning how this might work – French Mayor Anne Hidalgo has proposed that every Paris resident should be able to meet their essential needs within a short walk or bike ride. An exciting and interesting concept labelled the ‘15 minute city’.

The major changes needed to support visions like this will not happen overnight. New agile communication strategies will help businesses better balance risk, reputation and growth to deliver superior and sustainable performance. With all of this in mind some brands are showing how they are supporting a more sustainable vision for future cities:

  • Electric vehicles – Vehicle manufacturers will be a key stakeholder in improving air quality in cities. With a current low take-up of electrified vehicles (largely due to the minefield of acronyms and complicated options), Ford has been helping educate consumers about the EV choices available through a series of consumer education events called Go Electric.
  • Two wheels vs four – Governments have been telling us to get off public transport and find alternative ways of getting around. As a consequence, some cycle shops and manufacturers have done well out of the pandemic. Many brands have let people ‘come to them’, but not Dutch e-bike manufacturer VanMoof, which has taken the bold approach of using air-time to take a swing at car manufacturers for traffic and pollution issues
  • Re-thinking how we shop – With the scaling up of online shopping, retailers are becoming aware of their responsibilities regarding pollution, congestion and sustainability. Consumers are being asked ‘just because you can have something the same/next day, does that mean that you should?’ To help re-balance this Amazon has been communicating their ‘not-next-day deliveries’ – for example, offering a £1 off if you don’t go same-/next-day or opt to receive several packages at once
  • The power of partnerships – The #BikeIsBest campaign shows what can be done when multiple brands get together and communicate one simple message – in this case, freedom. Freedom of cycling: freedom from fares, freedom from parking charges, freedom from being stuck in traffic congestion, and freedom from the blight of air pollution.

The future of city mobility is an exciting one. My hope is that by encouraging city stakeholders to collaborate and communicate we can accelerate the pace of change and are able to keep some of the positives from the pandemic like cleaner, quieter and safer streets.