Top Highlights From IMPACT Festival, 2021

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Sustainability has an immense impact on our economy. It is an opportunity and a risk at the same time: an opportunity for those who take on it early on and accept changes, but also a risk for those who are reluctant to change. We must work together to develop innovative ideas and act in order to generate sustainable economic growth. As Europe’s first community-based platform, IMPACT’s goal is to accelerate the sustainable transformation by bringing all relevant players together. The focus is on connecting innovators such as green start-ups with corporates and investors.

The 2-day festival in September 2021 brought together pioneers, thought leaders, start-ups, large companies and investors to discuss and develop sustainable business models. Some of the innovation areas covered in the festival included resource efficiency, sustainable finance, clean technology as well as the future of mobility among many more. Throughout the festival, there were exhibitions on sustainable technologies and innovations, sustainable business models, green start-ups present sustainable products and services. There were also on-site workshops led by experts to promote the sustainable transformation of your company and to get to know best practice examples.

The main stage held lectures and panel discussions with visionaries, innovation leaders and start-ups on fundamental questions about responsibility and sustainable management as well as best practice examples. One of these leaders was movmi’s very own Sandra Phillips, who addressed the audience with a keynote on ‘How to re-organize mobility infrastructure.’

In this blog post we will summarize Sandra’s keynote speech as well as Prof. Dr. Marco te Brömmelstroet’s keynote on ‘The Tunnel Vision of Mobility Thinking’ which we found both profound and inspiring.

Watch the full ‘Future Mobility & Cities’ Main Stage speakers below.

Top Highlights From IMPACT Festival, 2021

‘How to re-organize mobility infrastructure’ – Sandra Phillips

“30% of greenhouse gas emissions are produced from personal transportation – it’s time we put an end to it.” -Sandra Phillips

By repurposing the transportation systems and infrastructure we have already built and putting it towards more sustainable modes, we could see a shift in travel behaviour i.e. people using private vehicles less.

When you close your eyes, what do you imagine personal transportation infrastructure looks like? Many of you will probably see lanes upon lanes of cars. Yes, if we build more roads it might ease congestion for a while, but eventually we will see congestion again, because the phrase ‘if we build it, they will come’ is a certainty.

The same rational could then be applied to shared mobility services, right? If we build them, people we come and use them? Not quite. Some shared mobility services that did this and failed include:

There are many reasons for why these failures happen, the main one being a lack of infrastructure. If we take the city of Kelowna as an example, they introduced a micromobility e-scooter pilot program in April this year. Due to a lack of cycle-lane infrastructure, many people using the service rode the e-scooters on sidewalks as they did not feel safe using them on the roads, which caused a lot of problems for both the city and it’s residents. Now there is only one provider left, as opposed to the original five.

Another example is car2go in San Diego, the first large electric carsharing scheme in North America. When it was rolled out, it was done so with the personal vehicle owner in mind, not with a shared system in mind and so there wasn’t enough charging infrastructure in place for users of the service. DriveNow in San Francisco shut down because the city didn’t give users access to the same parking spots that everyone with a personal car has access to.

So, although micromobility and shared mobility may very well be the solution to the privately-owned vehicle, it requires behaviour change and not just on a personal level, but also on a community and city level.

How did Vancouver make it happen?

Instead of over-regulating, Vancouver used shared mobility architecture and began nudging people through providing easy and attractive access to infrastructure that they already had.

In 2010 Vancouver introduced their first ever segregated bike lane. They took a lane that previously belonged to cars and put a barrier up for cyclists to use. It was highly controversial at the time because the mayor did it overnight. Today, on a daily basis in Vancouver, 40,000 bicycle trips use this lane and 7% of all trips in the city are on bicycles.

The city of Vancouver also committed to making carsharing attractive by repurposing parking spots. If you are a carshare user in the city, you can park in ‘residents only’ parking spots, which you can’t do if you own your own vehicle and do not live in that neighbourhood. The operators pay for this privilege themselves. Now 31% of all Vancouverites hold a membership with one of more carshare services, which is just over 200,000 people. 25% off all members got rid of their privately owned vehicle which means Vancouver now has 50,000 cars less.

The Shared Mobility Compass Card Pilot that ran throughout the pandemic in Vancouver, targeted work related travel. The participants were give an access card that allowed to use multiple modes of transportation which included public transit, carshare and bike share. 60% of the people that took part in the pilot replace their personal vehicle with shared mobility and 30% tried a new form of shared transportation.

In order to change people’s travel behaviour, we have to make it easier, more attractive and give people choice and the best tool we have to do this is repurposing the existing infrastructure we already have.

The Tunnel Vision of Mobility Thinking’ – Prof. Dr. Marco te Brömmelstroet

Perspective matters and language matters. The language that we speak shapes reality.

Language by definition is a simplification of reality and we cannot live without simplifying our complex reality. In simplification, language makes arbitrary choices and is also performative, it is not a mirror of reality. We need to become aware of how the language we use for mobility is also simplifying our understanding of mobility and influencing the way we design mobility solutions.

A primeval forrest is one that is untouched and is place where you can grow, hunt, play, build a nest etc. It serves many purposes for many different creatures. In Germany, when wood became valuable for fuel and construction, large forest owners asked scientists to come up with a language to help them govern their forests and they came up with the concept of the ‘standard tree.’ The perfect tree for the production of wood. This language then began to shape the way forests were viewed. Nowadays, a production forest in Germany is one that has been shaped around the ‘standard tree’ – rows of standard trees that are optimized for wood production. Now you cannot hunt or hide, all kinds of animals are now no longer welcome. The production value of the production forest is actually lower than a primeval forest because they are now more vulnerable – one bug has the capabilities to destroy 50% of the forest.

IMPACT festival - production forest
Source: https://research.wri.org/gfr/forest-designation-indicators/production-forests

In the 1920s, streets were also ‘primeval.’ A street that served all kinds of different purposes. The street was seen as the remaining space between buildings. These streets came under pressure by the mass manufacturing of the motorized vehicle which collided with our previous understanding of the ‘street.’ At that time nobody was thinking that cars would start to dominate cities. It took only 10 years to create a new language to shape the reality we are now living. A language that consisted of words like ‘efficiency’, ‘control’ and ‘freedom of the individual.’ In the 1930s traffic engineering was born and that language solidified into norms, guidelines, institutions and behaviour and in the end began to solidify our imagination, when thinking about mobility.

Because of this language, even today, we still think of ways to optimize the machine and marginalize the human. To develop a mobility systems that are even more seamless and easy to use. However these systems are actually creating longer distances for us travel – not less, which means our travels times have increased as well. Not so efficient.

If we think that radical change is needed, we need to put the choices of our language on central stage. Otherwise we will end up with the same world views, the same ideas, the same people, the same companies that tell we are changing something. But we are not changing something if we do not question the underlying foundation of our thinking. We are just replacing the current mobility narrative and putting the word ‘sustainable’ in it. By changing our language, we can choose to create friction-rich, valuable, interactive, social streets where being ‘on the way’ is actually meaningful.


Learn more about the IMPACT festival here. Want to learn more about repurposing existing infrastructure, reach out to Sandra here.

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