The DfT yesterday published the ‘summary of responses’ to its consultation on the future of mobility. The Future of Urban Mobility Strategy pulls together responses from organizations and individuals, local authorities, transport organizations and trade associations.
The resulting strategy sets out 9 key principles that will shape the government’s decision-making to ensure future transport is ‘safe, accessible and green’. A core part of the strategy will be a regulatory review of traffic laws to ensure legislation keeps pace with the “opportunities” offered by new mobility technology.
Current congestion on our roads contributes to time lost to the economy, air pollution and a lack of physical activity, according to the document. While congestion costs the UK economy an estimated £2 billion a year, reliance on cars is seen as one reason that 64% of UK adults are overweight – whilst also being an inefficient use of space.
Key principles to secure a ‘21st century transport system’ include walking, cycling and active travel remaining the best option for short journeys, with ‘mass transit’ and shared journeys underpinning efforts to reduce congestion and emissions. Further drives towards better transport efficiency will include harnessing shared data.
At the other end of the mass transit option is micromobility – also referred to as personal electric mobility. Encompassing the more established shared cycle hire, e-cargo and pedelecs – micromobility also now includes what the DfT call the ‘rapid development’ of electric scooters and skateboards – with respondents saying legislation is preventing the use of the latter as a way of getting around.
The document notes the recent successful Sainsbury’s e-cargo trial, while acknowledging that e-bikes widen access to the health and wellbeing benefits of active travel. Market research highlighted that 62% of e-bikes sold in the UK are to the over 55s.
As part of moving UK mobility forward, the DfT will conduct a ‘significant review’ of the legislative framework – for example to identify safe design and usage of electric scooters – with current laws not keeping pace with changes in mobility, the document says: “It is highly likely that this will necessitate new primary legislation in due course”.
Continued calls for cycling and pedestrian infrastructure featured in feedback, with proper segregation from motor vehicles and direct cycling routes to places of work. Others called for e-bike purchases to be subsidised through grants to further boost the market. Key feedback from a number of groups responding to the consultation was a call for technology-enabled inclusion.
A DfT spokesperson this morning told Pedelecs that there are “no concrete plans to change the rules relating to electric bikes” at the current time and that “all modes of transport are being looked at as part of the review.” Regulatory change for any mode of transport will only come about if this review sets out a requirement for closer scrutiny.
The DfT says “a move to connected, automated and zero emission mobility has the potential…to help tackle predominantly urban challenges such as congestion and air pollution, improve connectivity in urban areas and boost national productivity. It could make cities greener and quieter, as well as increasing the convenience and affordability of travel while widening access to mobility for disabled people and older people.”
The document notes that industry leaders are recognizing the shift, saying the UK’s Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders is looking at how technology can redefine mobility. Improved sensing technology and software are leading to increasing levels of automation in transport as one example. Shared self-driving vehicles are due to be trialed on London roads. Meanwhile Ford has opened a dedicated ‘Smart Mobility Innovation Office’ in London to look at mobility solutions for Europe.
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