Reshaping mobility: Now is the time
How can mobility make a positive contribution to the quality of life in a city? And to the environment? These are the central questions that the Embassy of Mobility wants to ask. “This time allowed us to go back to the drawing board and redesign mobility from scratch,” says Rob Adams, founder of the innovative agency Six Fingers and curator of the Embassy of Mobility.
Adams sees the corona crisis and lockdowns experiences as a starting point for future mobility. “People experienced a different quality of life in the city when the amount of traffic was down due to a lockdown,” he says. “People who lived in very touristy cities, such as Paris and Amsterdam, experienced some peace and quiet and more space when the amount of traffic within those cities was drastically reduced. They found that it only improved the quality of life.”
Mobility has not only an impact on the liveability of a city but also the climate. “That’s why we at the Embassy of Mobility want to investigate how mobility can have a positive impact on the environment. This is challenging because all forms of transport have a certain level of emission,” says Adams. “We’re going to see if we can reduce those emissions and eventually have emission-free transportation.”
Redesigning public space
How does the curator want to do that? “We want to redesign cities starting from an entirely new principle,” he says. ”Previously, cities were designed so that the car was the main focus. The car currently takes up 70 to 80 per cent of the space.” It’s not only roads but also parking spaces, for example.
"In the average residential area, you first have a road, then a strip of parking spaces and there is just a sliver of space left over for pedestrians or cyclists. That should be the other way around. People should be at the centre of mobility design"— Rob Adams
“It is not just about today’s society, but also about future generations. We want to leave behind a good world, and healthy mobility will play an important role in this,” he continues.
Green, greener, greenest
To achieve this, the Embassy of Mobility will conduct four experiments in the Brainport region this year. In some neighbourhoods and other locations in and around Eindhoven, people will experience what it is like to live with the new design of mobility. The first project is called Blik voor Groen (Tin for Green). “We are literally going to replace tin, i.e. cars, with greenery. The cars will be collected together at a location just outside the neighbourhood, which will leave more space for greenery in the streetscape. And for facilities such as playgrounds and parks. This makes the neighbourhood more liveable,” says Adams. Next year the first two streets in Eindhoven will be set up this way to see how residents respond.
The Embassy of Mobility’s second project is the inverted transportation pyramid. “Traffic lights are set to make it as easy as possible for cars. That is strange if we want to focus on people. That is why we want to move towards a system in which pedestrians, cyclists and collective transport – in that order – have priority at traffic lights over cars,” he says. For example, people who choose a healthy and sustainable form of mobility are rewarded because they can continue their way faster at traffic lights.
Less traffic on the road
In addition, in collaboration with Rijkswaterstaat, the Embassy of Mobility is working on an ‘outside the home workplace’. “When the highways are full, you can widen them, but you can also try to prevent people from needing to use the highway. That’s what the ‘outside the home workplaces’ project is meant to help. These are gathering locations with good workplaces at junctions in cities. Companies can encourage their employees to go to these locations. This way, they work in a good workplace – instead of the kitchen table – where people can meet each other, but they also do not have to take the highway to the office.”
Everything close by
The last project this year is the 15-minute city. “This idea originated in Paris. The idea is that people can reach all the facilities they need within fifteen minutes (walking or cycling),” says Adams. Think, for example, of a supermarket and medical care, but also parks and theatres. That will help limit the amount of traffic. “We want to go one step further than Paris in the Brainport region. We also want to see whether we can limit the amount of logistical transport in the Netherlands. This can be done, for example, by being able to get food and other products to the right location within fifteen minutes. Isn’t it a shame that cauliflower has to come all the way from Groningen, for example, while they are also grown around the corner?” he asks.
The experiments will run throughout the year. The Embassy of Mobility will use the results to implement real changes in society. At Dutch Design Week, you can visit an exhibition about future mobility in the Klokgebouw. You’ll be able to see a large-scale model of the Brainport region, where you’ll be able to see the results of various experiments via lights. “We want to provide some insight into the changes and start a discussion which will help get things moving,” says Adams.
The Embassy of Mobility’s exhibition can be found and admired in the Klokgebouw during Dutch Design Week. The Embassy will also be holding a conference on 21 October. Several speakers will talk about their vision of mobility. There will also be room to discuss the topics with each other. You can register for the conference via the Embassy of Mobility website.