This month, we spoke exclusively with Antonia Roberts for our Women in Shared Mobility series. Antonia was part of the team which set up CoMoUK (as Carplus) in 1999. She spent 10 years helping to nurture the newly emerging car club industry, developing the information programme and accreditation scheme amongst other projects. Antonia re-joined the organisation in 2015 to set up the sister arm Bikeplus to support the development of bike share. Antonia also managed, for five years, an Active Travel Project in Leeds for Sustrans. With over 19 years’ experience working in the field of sustainable transport, we wanted to know Antonia’s thoughts on the developments and future of Shared Mobility.
Women in Shared Mobility: 2018 developments in bike share and expectations for next year
Antonia Roberts, Director of Bike Share, CoMoUK
1. WHAT are the biggest lessons learned that will help shape transportation in the future?
The biggest lessons learned in the last year or so, particularly in the UK, were on the development of public/private partnerships. Shared transport has always been delivered through these partnerships. Their nature has changed over time; where the funding comes from, where the risks are taken and the controls that have been put in place. This was really relevant when the ‘dockless’ bike sharing boom happened, with operators bringing capital free schemes to a city. This should have been an exciting opportunity to lighten the load for cities, but due to a number of external factors, it didn’t play out well. Schemes have closed, contracted and some have not been up to expectations. There will have to be a re-think of these relationships next year.
There have also been some very successful schemes in the UK. Cities such as Brighton, Cardiff and Edinburgh, who have introduced innovative products and services and implemented great community engagement programmes. They had really close ties with the city throughout the entire development and this is shown in the high ridership numbers. Moving forward we need to try and harness the expertise and understanding of the operators and implement that within a strategic framework for each city. This will ensure all objectives are met and that the benefits are realised by all.
2. WHAT DO YOU THINK WILL BE THE BIGGEST DEVELOPMENTS IN THE YEAR AHEAD?
I am excited that there are so many more voices in this debate now. The traditional arguments around taking space away from the private car, due to a loss of votes and parking revenue, may get overturned with new and stronger leadership. There may even be fair allocation of road, kerb and public realm space for a number of sustainable solutions. We are involved in an exciting new EU project which is bringing mobility hubs to both urban and suburban areas. The project implements shared transport alongside public transport and other facilities. We are working collaboratively to re-organised street space, making it a more creative space and providing the profile for a range of services, that can benefit all residents and members of society.
3. what are the biggest developments that ensure shared mobility is accessible for all?
Shared transport has always been an important tool in providing accessibility; access to services, rather than thinking about owning, storing and maintaining when you buy. What takes it to the next level is, in terms of bike sharing, is a scheme we are working on in Scotland. It takes lessons from North America and is providing low cost access to bike share. It takes away payment barriers, wrapping it up in an exciting, welcoming engagement program which makes it less intimidating to join.
The results have been great. In terms of the gender split, the results have been sixty-forty. There is also great ethnic diversity and engagement with minority groups such as refugees and asylum seekers. Generally, people who would not have thought about using bike share schemes, now have easier access to schemes within their city. This is exciting and positive and the social inclusion aspect should be planned into all future schemes and procurement processes.
Secondly, the greater numbers of e-bikes from sharing schemes that have been deployed has been great and is overcoming some health barriers. Some research we did a while back, found that a quarter of the people using electric bikes would not have been able to use a conventional bike. E-bikes give them the choice to use the flexible and valuable service, allowing them faster, easier and healthier journeys.
A challenge in terms of accessibility that we haven’t quite solved yet is around rural accessibility. How to implement the right car share and bike share models. This is something that is on our agenda for next year.
About the Interviewee
In 1999, Antonia led the development of Carplus, followed by Bikeplus in 2015. She created best practice resources, data collection systems, UK wide evidence of impacts surveys and accreditation services. She managed the Shared Electric Bike programme for the Department for Transport, and programmes for Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, Transport for London, and Unilever.
Antonia has more than 20 years experience of working in the voluntary sector, developing and managing projects in the field of sustainability. She has experience in marketing, management and creative problem-solving skills. Much of her working life has involved partnership working, devising collaborative approaches to challenges. Antonia’s background in psychology drives her understanding of behaviour change and effective communication. She is well practiced in tailoring messages to the public or specialist audiences through marketing materials, best practice guidance and industry events.
What are your thoughts on the developments in shared mobility that occurred over 2018 and what is to be expected for next year’s developments? What about the future implementation of shared mobility within rural areas? If you would like to be interviewed or to nominate a woman working in Shared Mobility for our next series, get in touch with us here.