Rethinking Urban Mobility

Rethinking Urban Mobility

Cities are for people

This YGL GRI develops collaborative strategies for promoting efficient urban mobility (e.g. battery standards, cross-industry collaboration, effective multi-modal transportation etc.) How would CO2 efficient urban means of transport ideally be if they were rethought systemically? How do we improve safety for all (motorized vehicles, cyclists, pedestrians) and reduce localized concentrated air and noise pollution and yet reduce congestion and travel time? Can we create powerful alternatives by cross-industry collaborative efforts, using existing technologies?

“Our cities are becoming more and more crowded. A city needs cars like a fish needs a bicycle primarily because you can’t use all that speed because of the many obstacles. (…) in 20-30 years people will not primarily use cars to get around in the cities”. Dean Kamen


In January, at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2009 in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, United Kingdom Prime Minister and Group of 20 Chairman Gordon Brown appealed for “business to formulate with us the economic and policy conditions that will incentivize their investment and that will bring the low-carbon economy into being.” To this end, he called on the Forum to facilitate a “new business-led mission in support of an ambitious climate agreement in Copenhagen, focused on the policies that will lead to business investment in a low-carbon recovery.”

Between 1990 and 2007, transport emissions increased by a third while emissions from other sectors decreased; the share of transport in total emissions rose from 1990 to 2007. More than half the global population now lives in urban environments, by 2030 an estimated 60% and by 2050 a whopping 80%. Although this is a quick and dirty approximation it does indicate the need for rethinking Urban Mobility.

The problem is even more pressing in developing countries. With an increase in population and a steady stream of people moving into cities, there is a huge pressure on mobility infrastructure in cities which will become even more acute in the coming decades. The developing world, or „first billion‟ and their cities have evolved in a particular direction in the 20th century. It is absolutely impractical, unviable and impossible that the „next six billion‟ representing the developing world can follow a similar „car-centric‟ model. There is a crying need for integrated system thinking for the (mega) cities of the future to work out mobility requirements vis-á-vis individual, city, and environment cost.

Together cities are already bigger than any individual market or alliance.

Meanwhile, urban populations are becoming increasingly uniform, as a consequence of globalization. Already, cities have more challenges in common than countries have with each other and have less difference – no foreign policy and military and such. Inter-city governance structures are slowly forming. The need to reduce CO2 emissions, a global, urban market, and new, altered traffic habits have combined to contribute to the generation of new needs and new products, under the name of “Urban Mobility”.

Are there opportunities for private – public partnership to respectively tackle urban CO2 emissions and leveraging a new market?


The main idea is to create an Urban Mobility authority in order to connect the stakeholders within urban transport and create common standards and promote a holistic approach.

Decreases CO2 emission globally, harmful pollution locally and improves lifestyle, security and health issues in cities.


It creates an Urban Mobility authority allowing for the creation of new product typologies, systems and business models for urban transport.


The success criteria would be to create an urban mobility authority whose initiatives spur cross- disciplinary cooperation. The ambition is to find a pilot city that would implement the policy recommendations.


To make people within very old and stable silos communicate. No immediate authority on the subject. To overcome stakeholder‟s short sited self-interest.

• We need to define urban mobility as unique field rather than a subset of ecology, urbanity, transport
• We need to prioritize the greening of cities • We need to rethink business models / incentives to encourage cross-disciplinary collaboration
• We need to integrate existing infrastructure, public and private offerings and potentially smart grids
• We need to cherry pick best features from private and public transport respectively and have a place for all relevant areas of multi-modal transportation including motorized and non-motorized transportation
• We need to address distinctly different demographic needs across cities and map-out city typologies
• We need to integrate new social behavior and tools into commuting • We need to apply off the shelf technologies to spur new solution • We need to bring together distinctly different and relevant fields of expertise and industries


Siddhartha Lal,, +91 11 41437616
Jens Martin Skibsted,, +45 28 14 49 18

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