European cities are stepping up their efforts on shared mobility, aiming to reduce traffic jams and pollution while generating the most profitable business in this field on the planet.
In 2015, companies working on shared mobility in Europe generated around €5.1 billion.
But the business could increase 20 times and reach €100 billion in 2025, according to some estimates, as more and more companies and cities are getting on board.
EU officials, local cities, and companies share the excitement about the popularity and the possibilities of these solutions, which include car-pooling or bicycle sharing, but also sophisticated applications to find the quickest – and still greener – itinerary to reach your destination.
The benefits are clear: users save money and time while cities are less polluted as the car usage decreases. At the same time, city centres are less congested and new spaces could emerge as the need for parking lots declines.
Madrid cut by half the circulation of cars last November due to the high level of CO2 and NO2 gases, and will limit the circulation in the city centre only to residents in 2018. Other cities have also announced plans to limit the circulation of the most polluting vehicles.
As the European Commission points out, for each shared car, fifteen private cars are off the road.
“But it’s not only about cars; we are witnessing a real spurt of shared bike systems in cities and towns across the EU. We need to ensure that the future of urban mobility is both shared and sustainable,” Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc said recently.
Bicycle sharing is spreading across European cities over the last years. The University College of London has compiled data from at least 127 cities using this system, most of them on EU soil.
Paris comes on top with 1,200 docking stations and around 20,000 bicycles. Some of these cities, like Madrid, use electrically-assisted bicycles (e-bikes), while Brussels will introduce its first 150 e-bikes soon.
The EU decided to give a further push to shared mobility by making it the theme of this year’s mobility week that will end on Friday (22 September).
To date, around 2,400 cities are taking part in the initiative. Last year, municipalities from more than 51 countries, including Japan or Mexico, joined the mobility week.
The growing revenues of sharing mobility companies reflect the innovative approach shown by European cities in organising their transport systems.
Lyon launched a digital tool called Onlymoov that gives users the best itinerary to reach their destination, together with information on the availability of bicycles and car-sharing options, cycle paths and parking spaces for both cars and bikes.
Electric-car sharing is also gaining traction in cities like Brussels, or La Rochelle in France. In the Dutch city of Capelle ann den Ijssel, near Rotterdam, an electric-automated shuttle has been functioning for several years.
Share instead of keys
The spread of ride-hailing apps like Uber or Cabify, along with pooling options, is also having an impact on how the Europeans now view car ownership.
According to a recent poll commissioned by Uber, which canvassed more than 10,000 people in ten European capitals, more than two-thirds of Europeans (67%) consider these apps a good alternative to car ownership.
Of those who own two or more cars, 63% would consider owning only one car if they could get around more easily with a combination of car apps and reliable public transport. This increased to 77% amongst those who have used apps like Uber in the last year.
The arrival of these apps has shaken up local transport systems in Europe, altering the license-based taxi business and local regulations.
While Uber still faces two major court cases at the European Court of Justice, the firm changed its approach in Europe even before the departure of its founder Travis Kalanick in June this year.
Uber now presents itself as a reliable partner to local authorities in tackling issues related to urban mobility and shares some of its data with city halls.