The 15-minute City Concept And Dedicated Infrastructure As A Key For Micro-mobility Future In The UK

The 15-minute city concept and dedicated infrastructure as a key for micro-mobility future in the UK

Joe Lewin, CEO of Zwings, shares his vision of a micro-mobility utopia.

Now that over 50% of the world’s population lives in urban areas, the need to provide residents and visitors with a range of sustainable travel modes is more pressing than ever. We are currently in the midst of a seismic shift in the way communities perceive travel, and increasingly people are thinking twice before grabbing the car keys.

With 60% of all car trips being less than three miles in length and the majority of those undertaken by the driver only, there is vast opportunity for innovative modes of travel in the ‘transit desert’. Investment into sectors such as micro-mobility is fueled by a rising consumer demand for convenient, sustainable and affordable transport in urban areas. Societal expectations for transport share similar standards for most technology nowadays: instantaneous, flexible and affordable.

The emergence of sharing e-scooters and bikes in the UK in the last nine months has allowed city authorities to reduce gridlock and poor air quality that plagues so many communities. Limited research has been undertaken into the impact of insufficient travel options in cities. Undeniably, however, a lack of access to affordable, convenient travel options can create a barrier to job opportunities, healthy living, medical care, and the mental health benefits of getting out and about.

The 15-minute city concept and dedicated infrastructure as a key for micro-mobility future in the UK

The Zwings micro-mobility utopia

The Zwings team dreams of a ‘future of mobility utopia’ in which everyone and anyone, regardless of circumstances, can enjoy affordable and convenient access to a range of transport options. The concept of the ‘15 minute city’ ideates an urban environment where you could reach work, school, shops or the doctor with just a quarter of an hour  of walking, cycling, scooting, or even flying! In the 15 minute city, traffic jams will become an outdated relic of the past. These currently cost the UK economy an estimated £7 billion each year due to lost productivity and the wider implications on mental health.

The average Brit spends four years of their life in a car, eight months of which is spent sitting in traffic, with a further two months devoted to finding parking spaces. Shocking, right? Although this particular statistic is my favourite one: Brits spend 15 days of their life driving in the wrong direction. Similarly, to a certain extent there is a gaping void in many public transport systems, particularly in towns and small cities in the UK where buses come only at 30 to 60 minute intervals and follow a fixed route leading to a cumbersome stop-start journey.

Local authorities are recognising the benefits of micro-mobility

The 15-minute city concept and dedicated infrastructure as a key for micro-mobility future in the UK

Local authorities are increasingly recognising the widespread benefits of introducing micro-mobility modes into their communities, coupled with further investment in cycle lane infrastructure and, in some cases, even the development of mobility hubs.

Zwings is now working with two universities and six towns and cities and several more soon. We design our transport service around each community’s unique set of needs and infrastructure. We work with local businesses, community centres and properties to install and promote mobility rental schemes to maximise positive engagement among key stakeholders.

This hyper-localised approach has allowed Zwings to tailor each scheme to serve a wider number of residents and visitors who may previously not have known the benefits of nor had access to micro-mobility.

Data reveals riders are using the e-scooters for door-to-door travel as well as for the first and last mile of journeys. We are seeing average ride times as long as 27 minutes across the UK and data which is almost double the average e-scooter ride length elsewhere around the world. At the time of writing, one rider in South Somerset has used Zwings’ rental e-scooters almost 200 times since we launched.

The precious resource of time and impact of pandemic 

Beyond cost savings, shared e-scooters preserve another precious resource, time. Saving an extra 20 minutes a day knowing riders don’t have to wait for the bus means more time spent with their family or to complete other errands.

The pandemic has acted as a catalyst to drive further positive behavioural changes towards increasing the adoption of micro-mobility. Climate change and the pandemic are two of many factors stimulating the evolution of technologies and vehicles such as shared e-scooters and e-bikes which have inadvertently led to the shrinking of the physical footprint needed to move people over short distances.

These modes of travel have helped create the concept of the 15 minute city which has allowed society to challenge the outdated notion of “gigantism” in transportation – in the form of personal, often single-occupant cars. In the wake of the pandemic, we are no longer discussing just a first-last mile challenge, we are solving door-to-door mobility issues found in the “transit deserts”. 

Holland’s current infrastructure, where 25% of the population cycle daily, presents an insight into this utopia. Through the continued development of designated cycle lanes, micro-mobility users will feel more confident in cycling or scooting regularly and, as such, they will be more willing to commit to healthy active travel. Urban areas are increasingly being designed to be anti-car and rightfully so.

Zwings’ utopian vision for micro-mobility envisages e-scooters, bikes, pedestrians and road users – including car and truck drivers – travelling safely in parallel with one another, through intersecting hubs, to varying destinations.

The 15-minute city concept and dedicated infrastructure as a key for micro-mobility future in the UK

To learn more about what micro-mobility will be like in the aftermath of COVID-19 and other important updates, follow our blog, and download the Zwings app to take an electric scooter ride today.