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future of mobility report cover 1The Department for Transport has published a strategy document for the future of urban mobility, one of the main purposes of which is to set out ways of handling significant innovations, such as zero-tailpipe emission vehicles (eg electric cars), "mobility as a service" (see this Wikipedia article for a definition),autonomous vehicles/self-driving cars, car clubs, ride-hailing, micromobility and demand-responsive transport.

The document states that "as far as possible" the government's approach will be underpinned by a list of principles.

  1. New modes of transport and new mobility services must be safe and secure by design.
  2. The benefits of innovation in mobility must be available to all parts of the UK and all segments of society.
  3. Walking, cycling and active travel must remain the best options for short urban journeys.
  4. Mass transit must remain fundamental to an efficient transport system.
  5. New mobility services must lead the transition to zero emissions.
  6. Mobility innovation must help to reduce congestion through more efficient use of limited road space, for example through sharing rides, increasing occupancy or consolidating freight.
  7. The marketplace for mobility must be open to stimulate innovation and give the best deal to consumers.
  8. New mobility services must be designed to operate as part of an integrated transport system combining public, private and multiple modes for transport users.
  9. Data from new mobility services must be shared where appropriate to improve choice and the operation of the transport system.

Several of those principles are very much to my taste: walking/cycling/active travel as the best option for short journeys; mass transit (ie trains, buses, trams), an integrated transport system.  However, the government has been saying the right things about public transport and active travel for quite a while, but in practice it has continued to allocate to them a tiny fraction of its expenditure on transport and is completely withdrawing all central government subsidies to Transport for London, as a result of which we are now seeing bus service cuts.  Professor Glenn Lyons of the University of the West of England, in his commentary on the new document, notes that

I was left wondering whether the next steps being set out were proportionate to the different priorities embodied in the Strategy and its principles. In particular, what of the humble modes of walking and cycling? Principle 3 states that “Walking, cycling and active travel must remain the best options for short urban journeys”. The Strategy also points to 45% of journeys made by urban residents being under 2 miles – lending themselves to walking and cycling and the associated health benefits that could follow. What a great opportunity for future urban mobility. Yet aside from a £2 million e-cargo bike grant programme being launched, I could find no reference to significant initiatives to further boost walking and cycling innovation....

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