Richard Dilks, Chief Executive at CoMoUK, explains how mobility hubs and shared transport schemes can play a significant role in the UK’s journey to Net Zero by cutting congestion and carbon emissions while improving air quality and the nation’s health.
At Collaborative Mobility UK (CoMoUK), we want to build on the strong growth in the shared transport sector to further extend its ability to deliver low carbon, lower cost sustainable transport options across the UK.
This is part of reducing dependency on privately-owned cars which are generally inefficiently used, costly to own or lease, take up a lot of space and are the major component of transport emissions in the UK.
Transport is in turn this country’s largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, producing more than a quarter of the UK’s total emissions. Its emissions have not fallen in a generation.
We can’t hope to meet our climate change targets without greater use of shared transport as part of a broader sustainable transport package of public transport and active travel too.
That’s why we would like to see car clubs, bike sharing, shared rides and demand responsive transport spread across rural, island, suburban and urban areas.
Part of this shift can come from mobility hubs, which have been hugely successful in transforming the lives of people and businesses in parts of Europe.
Mobility hubs bring public transport together with walking and cycling options and shared transport.
While there is no ‘one size fits all’ design, they can include community facilities such as cafés, fitness areas, green space, package collection points, Wi-Fi and phone charging, real-time journey planning information, walking areas and disabled access.
We believe these hubs can contribute to the goal of creating ‘20 minute neighbourhoods’, which enable people to live, learn and meet their needs within a 20 minute walk of their home.
They are common in a number of comparator countries such as Germany, Austria, Belgium and Norway as well as in many US cities.
Both the UK and Scottish governments are keen on these hubs, and the first CoMoUK -accredited one has already opened in a suburb of London and with plans underway for several in Scotland.
We believe the creation of more mobility hubs around the UK can help with meeting climate change targets, while also bringing energy and excitement to urban centres and providing new opportunities and connectivity for some of the country’s most deprived areas.
Benefits include reducing the dominance of private car use and the associated problems of congestion, carbon emissions, poor air quality and social exclusion.
They also offer convenience and choice with the possibility of seamless switches and improved links between different layers of transport.
Mobility hubs can lead to improved access for vulnerable users and can help to improve overall public transport networks by plugging gaps in connections.
Before the Covid pandemic, over two thirds of Scotland’s commuters drove to work by car or van, and 66 per cent of all car journeys in Scotland were single occupancy trips.
Government figures for England also suggest that 62 per cent of all car or van journeys were made by a lone driver in 2019, rising to 89 per cent for commuting journeys.
Persuading the public to transition from petrol and diesel cars to electric alternatives has long been talked up as a silver bullet.
But while they may be better for the environment, they are no less guilty of causing congestion and the manufacturing process is just as environmentally unfriendly.
Instead, we would like to see greater use of bike hire schemes, car clubs, ride sharing and demand responsive transport.
In a recent survey by CoMoUK, more than half of users of bike share schemes said they would have made their last trip by car or taxi if the option to hire a bike had not been available.
Meanwhile, our research finds that the number of people signed up to car clubs in Scotland is now at an all time high of 38,000.
To increase vehicle occupancy, we believe employers and large organisations can do more to incentivise ride sharing and carpooling for commuting journeys and business trips – particularly as employees begin to return to workplaces as Covid restrictions are lifted.
Richard Dilks is chief executive of the UK’s national shared transport charity Collaborative Mobility UK (CoMoUK). It was established in 1999 and is dedicated to the public benefit of shared transport such as shared cars, bikes, e-scooters and rides.
Richard is speaking at Highways UK on 2-3 November about how mobility hubs and shared transport schemes can play a significant role in the UK’s journey to Net Zero