This is the first of a two-part series. In this article we will talk about initiatives such as building community spaces to help cities become more focused on what’s the most important the people.
 
In the age of building autonomous vehicles, city planners are having ever-more important conversations on how to build cities for the people and their needs. In metropolitan cities like Vancouver and Seattle, for example, the prevalence of shared mobility options like carsharing and bikesharing show the change in preference on how people move around.
 
However, skeptics may question the role shared mobility has in actually helping a city be more people-focused instead of car-focused. The thought of adding a fleet of vehicles to the roads could seem counterintuitive with the vision of removing cars from the road, but not according to research.
 
According to UC Berkeley’s Transportation Sustainability Research Centre, up to 11 vehicles are removed from the road for every carsharing vehicle (CityLab). This replacement occurs because carsharing makes people less reliant on vehicles and helps people embrace alternate forms of transportation like public transit, biking, and walking.
 
Similarly, cities are preparing for the future. Not necessarily one surrounding the internet of things, but the physical one where cities are developed for people who access the city either by foot, bike, or transit. Urban planning that is focused on how people, and not cars, move around the city. Essentially, a city accessible for all
This shift in how cities are planned and developed is important in creating a healthy, livable community for generations to come. The way cities are built shapes people’s habits on how they get around, and if we want to continue promoting urban cities as a viable place to live, cars can no longer be a priority.
In order to get a car-city like Los Angeles to become a pedestrian-friendly city like Amsterdam, cities can take various initiatives to get them going in the right direction. The first initiative we will cover in our two-part series is about community spaces and how it supports a better city for everyone.
 
Building Community Spaces
In general, community spaces create a place for people to gather and spend time with friends and family. These spaces are often a safe haven from the concrete jungle that surrounds it, and can attract people to the neighbourhood as well.
 
One great example is High Line Park in New York. Originally a railroad track, the area was preserved and converted into open public spaces starting in 2009, attracting people to this former industrial area. Now the park is consistently ranked as one of the top attractions to see in New York, helping stimulate business in the neighbourhood as well. 
The phrase build it and they will come” reflects the success of building public spaces like High Line Park, but also smaller-scale initiatives like Vancouver’s More Awesome Now project. This project paints sections of downtown alleys with bright colours to give people another area to spend time in. Their first redesigned alley hosts a basketball hoop and café fixtures and has received welcomed attention by locals and tourists alike.
 
These examples are highlighted to show the importance of building areas for people, not vehicles. Shared mobility supports these people-focused initiatives. As space dedicated to vehicles decreases, shared mobility options will give people viable options to still get around the city as needed. This makes sense because one vehicle shared among multiple people will get more usage and waste less space sitting idle. 
Similarly, it is important to build community spaces for the same reasons shared mobility is is growing as a transportation option:
  • Improve overall well-being People gravitate towards welcoming environments to get away from the hustle of everyday life. The ability to find a place that provides comfort in today’s time-sensitive world is highly valued. Similarly, relying on shared mobility options reduces the financial stress and obligations that come with owning private vehicles, and encourages people to opt for healthier commuting options like walking or biking
  • Convenience and flexibility Having more options available automatically gives people more control of how they spend their time and where. By not being restricted to limited public spaces or transportation options, people can plan their day based on their own needs and priorities
  • Be a part of a changing culture There is a growing preference for experiences over material items, so it’s not surprising that people crave the experience of enjoying public spaces. Similarly, people do not want to be tied down to just one way of getting around and prefer to share assets such as vehicles or bikes instead
 
In addition, as congestion increases and populations grow, the need for cities to adapt to denser neighbourhoods becomes even more critical. If we want people to rely on their two feet as a viable mobility option, we need to give them space to move around. The space-efficiency of planning around pedestrians is greater than planning around vehicles, and initiatives such as building community spaces increases the safety pedestrians need to build successful, urban cities.
 
Stay tuned for our next part of this series on how shared mobility builds better cities.

Amanda Lam

Amanda is the Marketing and Communications Specialist at INVERS. Building on her carsharing experience and strategic marketing knowledge, Amanda is responsible for building awareness on the future of mobility.