Defining future mobility together

In conversation with experts. “Because when it comes to mobility, everyone is an expert”, is what curator Rob Adams wants, during the conference of Embassy of Mobility. Above all, he wants to learn a lot, to hear the questions that are out there. “Only by learning do we bring the future closer.”

Type Update
Published on 22 October 2021
Part of Embassy of Mobility
Defining future mobility together
Part of Embassy of Mobility

“Mobility is a subject that is alive and well.” On stage is a panel working on experiments such as Blik voor Groen, which replaces space for cars with greenery, and the 15-minute city, which investigates which facilities in the neighbourhood will make residents of a city limit their movements to 15 minutes.

Alderman Monique List, Tim Daniels (programme manager Brainport), Edwin Heesakkers (director EIT Urban Mobility), Stan Kerkhofs (Living Lab specialist at the Corporate Innovation Programme of the Department of Public Works) and Matthijs van Dijk, professor of Mobility Design at TU Delft, joined designers Ivo Hulskamp from Bygg Architecture & Design and Lucas Zoutendijk from Studio 1:1 on stage, creating a kind of talk show setting.

Reactions like: “Should the car be banned completely? The car has also brought a lot of freedom. There are people who want to think about how you can better deal with mobility. “What do these people want and what makes them happy? Or reactions like: “In the Netherlands, everything can be reached within 15 minutes, right? What will come in return if we don’t have cars in the neighbourhood?” Or, “Why isn’t the car industry represented in the embassy?” A question from someone who works for Volkswagen. Adams: “That is not intentional, so here is the invitation to join.”

Humanity centered

Waar het volgens Adams omgaat, is dat we anders tegen mobiliteit aan gaan kijken. “Jullie zijn allemaal gebruikers en experts. Of experts in wording.” Maar Adams waarschuwt ook: “Je bent expert op basis van ervaringen van het verleden. Data uit de toekomst bestaat nog niet. De wereld van mobiliteit verandert ontzettend snel. Twee jaar geleden was de conferentie voor het eerst. Vorig jaar was er geen vanwege covid. Als covid ons één ding heeft geleerd, is dat bepaalde steden – zoals Parijs, Milaan, Venetië – veel leefbaarder werden, simpelweg omdat er minder mobiliteit was.”

“Hier op Dutch Design Week zie je veel user centered design, maar ik denk dat dat een verkeerde afslag is. User centered design leidt er toe dat we dingen gaan maken waar mensen nu behoefte aan hebben. Ik denk dat we meer naar humanity centered design moeten gaan. Dat je de toekomstige generaties centraal stelt in je ontwerp en kijkt wat de impact op die generatie is.”

Dat systeem rondom mobiliteit, waarin de auto een belangrijke plek inneemt, moet veranderen. “Maar”, benadrukt Adams, “het gaat er niet om de auto te verbannen. We moeten er anders mee omgaan.”

Humanity centred

According to Adams, the key is to look at mobility differently. “You are all users and experts. Or experts in the making. But Adams also warns: “You are experts based on past experiences. Data from the future does not yet exist. The world of mobility is changing very fast. The conference was held for the first time two years ago. Last year there was no conference because of Covid-19. If Covid has taught us one thing, it is that certain cities – like Paris, Milan, Venice – became much more liveable, simply because there was less mobility.”

“Here at Dutch Design Week you see a lot of user centered design, but I think that’s a wrong turn. User-centred design leads us to make things that people need now. I think we should move more towards humanity-centred design. That you put future generations at the centre of your design and look at what the impact is on that generation.”

That system around mobility, in which the car occupies an important place, needs to change. “But”, Adams emphasises, “it’s not about banning the car. We have to deal with it differently.”


For Edwin Heesakkers, it is important that what is done in terms of experiments does not stop at tests. “We want to build start-ups around it that will market the ideas.” Like the two initiatives in Amsterdam. Designer Tessa Steenkamp introduced two initiatives there. One in Amsterdam Noord, where there will be a construction site for the next five years to make the city a car-free zone. In the transition to this, designers, together with the neighbourhood, thought about what they could do to make the evenings and weekends more liveable. The idea of a playground made of mobile construction trellises came up. A table tennis table, one that you can open up as a shop, and one that makes a volleyball field. Another initiative is the Dappere Bomen, on the Dapperplein. A square with a market six days a week. When there is no market, the square is a tarmac area where cars race over it. “Every Sunday the wheeled trees are moved,” says the architect.

Embassy of Mobility Conference

Energy carrier

A Lightyear employee adds that we can also start looking at the car differently. “The car can become part of the electric grid, as an energy carrier, to solve problems. Or a shared car system so that more people can use it. We think that if you make sure that you can drive in a clean way, then it’s no longer a problem to move around. And we need to make it more accessible for everyone. That’s possible in a sharing system.”

Out-of-home workplaces

Stan Kerkhofs introduces an experiment started by Rijkswaterstaat and the Embassy: workplaces away from home. “We can widen roads to solve the mobility problem, but you can also make sure that people don’t have to use the motorway.”

For Kerkhofs, it is very strange that in the road network there is a subdivision into main roads – the motorways – and an underlying network. He wants Rijkswaterstaat to play a different role. On the basis of equality. According to Kerkhofs, the experiment with work-at-home locations has the greatest effect on the use of the motorway. “We are used to working at home with all its disadvantages. People with children recognise that. Or people with a bad desk. There was loneliness. Yet there were also advantages. We want to make sure that people do get out of the house, but don’t have to go on the motorway.”

Kerkhofs: “I think that if you start building the place for the future, that people experience that it gets better, that they see that it can also be done this way. Maybe I’m an idealist, but if we manage to move people who have little money, then we have a social transition. You may need some ‘acid’ – as in parking permits – to get things going, but I very much believe in the power that it really can be done.”

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