Mobility in cities has become a hot topic throughout lockdown. As the UK government rolled out its plan to move out of lockdown many eyes were on what this would mean for our cities.
The lockdown effect has led to many groups and experts to call for significant changes to our city streets – from a greater implementation of cycle lanes to increased traffic restrictions to the creation of wider pavements, to name a few. All of this is being asked of cities that have limited space, not designed for social distancing and increased traffic (human or other).
Scientists believe that social distancing will need to be in place for another year after restrictions are lifted – coupled with news of less capacity on public transport – will mean commuters and residents will need to find other ways to move around. This has the potential to lead to increased ‘traffic’ on pavements and new road designs to accommodate the increase of cycling and scooterists.
The humble kerb used to be a place for vans with hazards on (often on double yellows), bus stops and pedestrians (plus the occasional cyclist or scooterist). It is now hot property – a space so many will be fighting over – from taxis, scooters and bikes (for parking), delivery companies, motorists for parking…and even outdoor dining and drinking.
In the UK kerb space is already congested and with new government legislation, they are about to get even busier. New laws will see every pub, bar and restaurant automatically given permission to serve alcohol for people to drink on the pavement and in the street.
It is likely that the transformation of our streets that we have seen through, and as a result of, Covid will be a permanent feature. Five kerb-side trends that will continue to grow post-lockdown:
Parking spaces re-imagined
Parking spaces are being re-imagined by companies like Spin who are investing in parklets. These are where parking spaces that are transformed into a community space for people to relax, whilst taking in an amenity (art, socialising, green space etc.). Expect to see more parking space takeovers as cities hand back more space to their residents.
Digitised and regulated kerb space
Local councils may have an overview of their kerb features for planning reasons but won’t have real-time data on how the kerb is being used. Start-ups like Coord are being set up to help cities create digital maps of kerb space and enable them regulate kerb users in near real-time. Tech like Drover AI’s would add to this by enabling cities to manage regulatory compliance across multiple operators (like scooter companies) – ensuring road and pavement legislation is adhered to.
Self-driving (kinda) scooters
Scooter companies have faced a lot of criticism after users dumping them on busy pavements. Relocating scooters from these spots is seen as a major challenge for companies like Lime and Bird. Tortoise has come up with a high-tech solution that doesn’t require those operators to manually pick up and transport the vehicle. Their tech can enable any small electric vehicle (in this case scooters) to be safely driven from one location to another.
Robots on our pavements
Expect to see robots on our streets. Starship robots have become commonplace on the streets of Milton Keynes but expect to see more of these kinds of services popping up across the UK. As demand for online deliveries continues to grow, we will see more innovative ways of parcels, groceries and food being directly delivered from stores to your home.
More pedal power
We’ve seen an explosion of cycling for leisure throughout the pandemic, and this trend is likely to extend into deliveries too. Courier companies are trying to find the balance between serving increased online shopping and sustainability. One solution is electric vehicles, the other is pedal power. EAV has created a unique and innovative design solution – eCargo bikes that are designed down from a van, not up from a bike.
Cities are in a state of flux and are certain to look different in the years ahead. We can only hope that the positive impact of the pandemic – from reduced congestion to cleaner air – will help define future city policy for the greater good.