Roberto Ghidini, Sociedad Peatonal: In search of “Smart Mobility”
Reducing traffic congestion has been an ongoing goal of many urban planners throughout the world, including Roberto Ghidini who is an urban mobility consultant and scientific director for Madrid-based Sociedad Peatonal (Pedestrian Society).
While many car enthusiasts may find it difficult to accept a sharing society which is less dependent on motorized vehicles, we must be prepared for this transition as it is already happening in some cities throughout the world. In my latest interview with Ghidini, we talk about ride-hailing and bicycle-sharing systems as alternatives.
Global Fleet: What is the objective of Sociedad Peatonal?
Ghidini: Sociedad Peatonal aims to strengthen mobility on foot in addition to supporting motorized mobility. It also encourages the use of public transportation, especially those modals which use low energy.
Basically, we are focused on supporting everything related to the accomplishment of smarter mobility.
Global Fleet: What are some of the main laws or policies designed to reduce traffic congestion in cities today?
Ghidini: There are a few measures that can be adopted to reduce traffic congestion. One involves directly cutting down on the number of vehicles on roads by implementing policies which restrict their usage.
Another involves developing a municipal timetable which would stagger the types of services being offered in cities, thus decreasing the use of vehicles during peak times.
Overall, we need urban planning that densifies urban areas and restricts the need to drive long distances. Developing policies that encourage the use of public transportation while reducing the speed of vehicles to make more room for cyclist and pedestrians would be ideal.
For many large cities, it is time to start thinking about charging a toll to drive into city centers, much like the Congestion Charge Zone which was implemented in London in 2003.
Global Fleet: Although discouraging the use of cars is a strategy, it does not seem like they will be disappearing any time soon. What do you think of alternatives such as ride-hailing services like Uber?
Ghidini: Well, passenger transport services such as these could be a good alternative for door-to-door transport as they reduce congestion by cutting down on the use of private vehicles which spend too much time in garages anyway.
However, let’s keep in mind that the traditional taxi provides practically the same service but with more regulation. The downside of ride-hailing companies, from an employment standpoint, is that the drivers don’t have much in terms of employment rights.
Global Fleet: Another alternative is bicycle use, a common mode of transport in some European cities and a rising trend in São Paulo where I reside. Do you see this model growing in Latin America and what can be done to make current systems even better?
Ghidini: Bicycle sharing systems are currently being deployed in several Latin American countries. I don't know the specifics in every region, but I do know that implementation began approximately ten years ago with Brazil and Chile as pioneers. Among the main countries lacking this service, however, are Bolivia, Paraguay and Peru.
As opposed to owning a bike, the advantage of a bike sharing system is that users do not need to purchase a bike, maintain a bike, or even have space to store it. Moreover, as each bike is circulated from rider to rider, the equipment is more efficiently used.
One thing needed to make these systems better is to build more bike-friendly infrastructure, which means building facilities which provide more safety and overhead coverage in urban areas.
station-free bike sharing system OFO, bike parked in front of Madrid metro station (Source: Roberto Ghidini)