November 25, 2009

What does mobility mean to you?

Reflecting on the word mobility, I came to think of, for example, these 4 things:


1. Innovative design of cities making it attractive for people to exercise
As I was helping out in Zürich renew a "Finnenbahn" - a jogging/workout track in the forrest, I came to think about the possibility of designing the centre of cities in ways that make it easy for people to get some exercise. As an example, how about opening up and designing school yards in cities in ways that make it attractive for people at all ages to go there and do a workout? Also, how about designing parks in ways that make it attractive for people to keep fit? Here is some inspiration from a park in China. Via this posting, I became more aware of the fact that, through intelligent design, we can promote more mobility in our everyday lives. In this particular example, surfboard shaped floor graphics are placed right on the moving walkway – thereby making the walkway experience a little bit more fun for kids, whose parents want to use the walkway to move forward.


2. Cars, bicycles, and other means of transportation
On page 14 of this report, I noticed that the number of kilometres driven with various motorized vehicles on roads in Switzerland have increased considerably since 2005. And in this report, I read that the car is the dominant mean of transportation. At events in Zürich in September this year, I discovered various possibilities around mobility – including several environmentally friendly vehicles. I wrote about some my experiences from the mobility week in Zürich in this blog posting.


3. Roads and tracks for people who walk, ride bicycles, drive cars and use other means of transportation to get from A to B
Characteristic about Switzerland, from where I am writing this posting, is, for example, the many mountains – but also that the country is covered with a dense road network, although the topography makes the building of roads quite a challenge. In fact, Switzerland has more than 70,000 km. of roads, I read here. I also noticed that all of them are paved roadways. Still, the users of the roads spent, in total, about 35 million hours waiting in traffic jams in 2005 – about 75% more than in 1995, I read on page 16 of this report. I’m wondering whether the problems with traffic jams and the large waste of time will be reduced in the coming years, as people become more used to, for example, developing, buying, and selling products on the Internet. What do you think? Learning about mobility across Switzerland, I also stumpled upon SwitzerlandMobility. SwitzerlandMobility makes it easy for people to experience Switzerland actively along attractive routes, for example by hiking, cycling, mountain biking, skating, and/or canoeing. I learned that, in particular, cycling and hiking are large successes. To learn more about that, have a look at this 10 minute film.


At a Kalaidos University event today in Zürich, Switzerland, Mr. Jürg Tschopp spoke about the development of SwitzerlandMobility. Mr. Tschopp also showed good photos of, for example, some the beautiful bike routes through Switzerland. Here’s an example from the Jura Route:


During the event, there was an interesting discussion about challenges transporting bicycles with, for example, car, train, bus, and boat. Thinking about how to improve the way bicycles are transported by train, I came across a couple of ideas: How about designing a train wagon to be used for transporting bicycles, for example a wagon with more and bigger doors as well as good bicycle parking spots? That'll make it easier for people to get their bikes in and out of the train as well as park and lock their bikes in the train.


4. Internet tools and mobile devices
Reflecting on the investments made in the development of routes for hiking, cycling, and other activities in Switzerland, I came to think about IT that could make the use of physical infrastructure even more attractive. Using, for example, laptops, mobile phones, mobile broadband, as well as various collaborative technologies / web 2.0 tools, whose quantity and quality have more or less exploded over the past few years, we have not least gotten the possibility of – anytime and anywhere - communicating about virtually anything with anyone.

An interesting technology related to mobility is FixMyStreet, through which anyone can participate in improvement infrastructure and the environment in general. For example, one could imagine that cyclists could report various development possibilities on bicycle routes – thereby improving the quality as well as reducing the costs of maintaining the bicycle routes. Another mobility relevant example is Google Maps. Some time ago, I learned that Google is working on making street view on Google Maps available in places where cars cannot go. Click on each of the links below to watch 3 concrete examples:
- Example # 1: Stonehenge, Britain. 1 minute video.
- Example # 2: Chateau de Versailles, France. 1½ minute video.
- Example # 3: University of Pennsylvania, USA. 1½ minute video.


What does mobility mean to you?
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