Retrospective 2020: Embassy of Mobility
2020 was the year that COVID-19 turned our lives upside down. The virus brought traffic to a halt, but at the same time, accelerated innovations that had been in the pipeline for years. Therefore, with the Embassy of Mobility, in 2020, we toured the world. So what actualy occurred in the world of mobility, both at home and abroad?
For Rob Adams, curator of the Embassy of Mobility, it was a special year for doing research into mobility systems. “What if there were no more traffic jams? What if planes didn’t fly anymore? In the recent period, these kinds of ‘what-if’ questions suddenly became a reality. We could see with our own eyes what mobility, and the temporary disappearance of it, does to our living environment and how people react to that.”
The Embassy seized the opportunity of the Corona crisis to investigate projects around the world to improve mobility and quality of life, such as keeping cars out of the city. And it did so not just from an urban perspective, but also from one that took the connection with the surrounding countryside into account.
The impact of corona on connections between countries was also examined. What changes do we foresee for international air and rail traffic, for example? The Embassy took a close look at all forms of mobility within the context of COVID-19, from bicycle to train, and from car to plane. The key question was how agile our mobility systems are in times of crisis, and how they affect the quality of our lives.
The Embassy of Mobility focuses on two directions, both of which are focused on the impact of corona on our mobility systems.
The first direction is that of the Mobility World Tour, with which the Embassy presented a virtual exhibition and peripheral programming during DDW20. The concept was developed on the basis of the Embassy manifesto and ‘the Line through the Brainport Region’. The second direction pertains to the period 2021 and beyond. The inspiration and insights from the Mobility World Tour will form the basis for developing further cooperation with the partners and formulating a common issue with which hat we can start experimenting in the Brainport region.
Our research brought three perspectives to the fore which were further explored in a virtual exhibition using model projects.
First: How can the mobility system adapt to changing needs? After all, while the Dutch mobility system may have appeared to be up to scratch with good infrastructure and reliable public transport, the outbreak of the coronavirus showed us that its ability to adapt still leaves much to be desired. Furthermore, people’s needs and expectations of mobility are changing. How should the system adapt to this?
We showcased the approach of start-up GoinGDutch, which takes a fresh look at the system. Why get stuck in traffic to work or the airport when you can also cycle there? The company offers e-bikes with a special bike assistant, that will always get you to your appointments or flights on time. For example, the bicycle communicates with traffic lights to ensure that the cyclist can ride a green wave. In addition, the bicycle calculates a route that’s customised to the user’s wishes. This may be the fastest route, but also a beautiful route through natural surroundings.
The second perspective addressed the question: How can a city adapt to changing requirements? Rumbling engines, buses thundering by and lots of exhaust fumes – that’s the normal course of events in a city. The lockdown stopped all that. The smell of the city returned and the sound of silence was more audible than ever. Working from home became the norm, and the car stayed parked at the door. Public transport did not always give people the secure feeling they were looking for. So everyone got on their bikes or went for an old-fashioned walk. The online exhibition presented inspirational examples from Milan and Paris on how to make the city truly cyclist-friendly.
Finally, the third perspective: How do the parameters for planning a journey on public transport change? The fastest or cheapest route has often been the starting point in public transport, but COVID-19 has put this in a different light. Besides the standard parameters in the journey planner, there seems to be a need for new starting points. Keeping a distance of one and a half metres from other passengers is the norm, but things have also changed at a visceral level. When was the vehicle last cleaned? And what is the quietest time to travel? These are questions that used to seem unimportant, but which travellers now have to answer.
In this context, IoMob developed the CORE MaaS (Covid Resilient MaaS) platform for social distancing. It includes a social distancing filter, a safety filter and a crowdsourcing tool for the occupancy rate. Using an app, travellers can view these new parameters and plan a journey based on them.
Dutch Design Week 2020
For the virtual Dutch Design Week, the Embassy of Mobility developed the online exhibition Research World Tour Mobility: a presentation on the exploration of the impact of pandemics on mobility worldwide. Nine projects, divided into three themes, were showcased.
The theme “The city adapts” showed how remote tourism is taking off in the Faroe Islands and how Paris and Milan are becoming true cycle hubs.
The theme ‘Mobility adapts itself’ featured an Arrival project on Corona-proof buses, the start-up GoinGDutch, which looks at the mobility system from the cyclist’s rather than the motorist’s point of view, and how design studio PriestmanGoode looked at aircraft interiors and came up with a new concept with today’s knowledge.
Under the theme of “New Parameters”, virtual visitors were introduced to the special walk at the Parc de la Distance, the new platform for social distancing CORE MaaS (Covid Resilient MaaS), which allows travellers to plan a safe journey, and how the city of Boston is giving cyclists and walkers more space with the development of “healthy streets”.
Other programme elements
From articles to podcasts, the stories of the Embassy of Mobility have been widely circulated. Several articles have been published about the World Tour Mobility and the various projects. Podcasts have been recorded, including three conversations with partners of the Embassy of Mobility and a conversation with designers on mobility solutions. The Embassy was a guest at the DRIVE knowledge festival. And last December, another WDE Talk was recorded at Pakhuis de Zwijger, asking the question: Is the bicycle the new car?
During DDW, people could join in on the WDE Talks: Mobility live on DDW TV (digital) with guest of honour, Chief Government Architect of the Netherlands Floris Alkemade. In cooperation with the municipality of Eindhoven, WDE also organised the Eindhoven Sessions. Here, mobility was discussed within the context of the development of Eindhoven XL.
Before DDW went completely digital, the Embassy of Mobility had the idea of organising three physical meet-ups with stakeholders during the week as a prelude to developing a collective design issue for 2021. Ultimately, in consultation with the partners, it was decided to move the meet-ups to 2021.