Cities at the Centre of the New Mobility

“It is becoming very important for cities to develop an open and transparent approach involving the various communities that make up their social fabric.”

At the LA CoMotion NewCities Cities in Motion Leadership Conference in Los Angeles, renowned architect Daniel Libeskind was invited to speak about the role of architecture in urban mobility. Always interesting, Libeskind mentioned, among other things, that it’s no longer countries competing with one another, but rather cities competing on an international level. This healthy competition pushes cities to be smarter about finding and implementing solutions, especially for serious mobility issues that plague major centres.

It’s Milan versus Copenhagen, Seattle versus Toronto, New York versus Paris—and it’s a good thing because competition encourages us to come up with solutions collaboratively. Cities share their discoveries and tools with the primary goal of improving the lives of those who live there.

Far from being insignificant, urban mobility issues have disastrous consequences on health, the economy, the environment and youth development, among other things.

Since governments at the municipal level are the closest to the people affected and are tasked with implementing solutions in their city, they hold a significant amount of power in developing and implementing solutions that directly affect the lives of both residents and visitors.

With this in mind, cities need to adopt an open and transparent approach involving all the communities that make up their social fabric. The importance of communicating issues and solutions cannot be underestimated—cities need to find a better way to communicate the true challenges and consequences of mobility issues related to goods and services. For the public to give their support and get involved, people need to be invited to participate in the discussion. Everyone needs to have a clear understanding of the issues and objectives and, above all, know that they are a part of the proposed solutions, along with being fully aware of the potential consequences.

Most major North American cities were built around the automobile in the ’50s and ’60s. This kind of urban development is no longer sustainable. The transportation of goods and people is suffering. The costs are significant and the amount of time wasted is untenable. Cities want to take back—for the common good and for the well-being of their residents—their sidewalks, streets, parking spaces, urban mobility and green spaces to create a more human, green and safe environment. To do so, they need to prioritize modes of transportation other than single-occupancy vehicles. Now is the time for electric vehicles, autonomous vehicles, various car- and bike-sharing platforms, bike lanes, reserved lanes, and the many solutions that have yet to be invented.

It is becoming increasingly clear that the status quo is unsustainable in the medium term. Some cities like Oslo and Copenhagen understand this—transportation and mobility are at the forefront of their thoughts and actions. The world’s other big cities will follow suit, in their own way, to solve their specific problems. The world is changing, one city at a time, as well it should!

– Luc Arbour