This story begins in 1970, in Copenhagen. The Danish capital is a European city like many others, with urban mobility developed mainly on four wheels and where only 9 percent of the population uses bicycles. In addition, the project of a large motorway destined to cross the center is looming. “Fifty years later, Copenhagen is competing with Amsterdam for the supremacy of the most cycle-friendly city in Europe: in 2015, 41 percent of the inhabitants already traveled by bicycle. The number of two wheels would have surpassed that of cars the following year”, says Davide Paterna, coordinator of the Change architecture festival, which focuses on new mobility.
What had happened in the Danish capital? “At the beginning of the 1970s, 150,000 inhabitants took to the streets to ask for policies in favor of sustainable mobility. The oil crisis will do the rest, giving the definitive push towards change. It was in those years that carless Sundays were conceived, the urban motorway project was abandoned and a series of investments was created that made Copenhagen the first or second cycle city in the world: not only infrastructures and incentives, but also formation and construction of a cultural imaginary that has made the Danish capital a case and an international model”.
The Danish story demonstrates an important truth when it comes to new mobility, especially ecological: that there are no countries and places with an ‘alternative’ or virtuous DNA. “No one is born a proponent of a specific vehicle, whether it is a car or a scooter, but we can all change attitudes and consumption, if well motivated and driven by history or external agents”, says Toti Di Dio of Push, a Palermo-based service design studio that is very active in the analysis of behaviors linked to urban mobility.
The study of the way we move in our cities is an insidious terrain like few others, because it has to do with economic aspects that are intertwined with emotional, irrational components that often tip the balance in favor of paradoxical choices. As if to say that we often end up choosing the means of locomotion more for adherence and fidelity to a human type (tell me which means you use and I'll tell you who you are: middle-class, neo-hippie and so on) than for real convenience.
However, a fact seems to have been established by now, which - thanks to the effects of the pandemic - sees fewer and fewer drivers tied to one and only one specific vehicle and more and more movers open to a basket of possible solutions. A phenomenon that also concerns the apparently incoercible world of cars and motorists, where, as photographed by a 2019 survey by Kantar, those who are fond of four wheels have begun to favor on the market increasingly connected, shared and electric, integrated vehicles, in an accessible and fluid usability ecosystem. In other words, it means a progressive move away from the idea of the car as a status symbol in favor of a vision of ‘service’.
Outside the world of the car, the mover is someone who is aware of their needs and is open to the new, to technology, to the integration of the opportunities that digital activates when you have to move. The horizon of this growing population is called mobility as a service and consists of those integrated systems still not very widespread in Italy (in Northern Europe the pioneers: Finland and Germany, while we are discussing them in Milan) which, with a single subscription, now allow you to use public transport, now a sharing car, now a scooter or a bike, depending on the route. Paid a monthly fee to the service provider, this suggests the most effective and convenient combination, integrating the different opportunities for movement and 'reading' the preferences of the subscriber.
In short, will we soon arrive at a world in which no vehicle and user will be demonized (cyclists by motorists and vice versa, aficionados of the scooter by pedestrians and so on) and we will all contribute to define the bouquet of ideal cars and vehicles, according to reasonableness? “We can be optimistic”, Toti Di Dio replies. “Finally, the idea that behind each means of transport there is simply a way to move, more or less suited to specific needs, with its pros and its cons, and not a sociological and economic profile. And even if irrationality still prevails in the choices on how to move, as confirmed by some of our investigations, awareness increases that tools such as bicycles and scooters can really replace cars”.
No demonization towards the four wheels, in the ideal scenario of tomorrow, because the car, if not polluting and possibly sharing, remains a resource, even if Di Dio says he has just bought one: “With a daughter on the way and living in a cities like Palermo are two things that may be worth the compromise. The important thing is that this compromise is on the upside: in my case the choice fell on a full electric model and the family is gearing up to obtain the possibility of parking in the building from the condominium”.