"We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them"
~ Albert Einstein
Current mobility practices and systems around the world are seen as unsustainable in environmental and social terms. Since mobility is deeply intertwined with the functioning of society and our daily lives, this represents a fundamental dilemma. How can we maintain the positive effects of mobility while minimizing its negative impact?
In societal and academic debate there are high expectations from upcoming mobility innovations. These are often rooted in advances in digital technology, and in general greeted with eager optimism.
1. Alternative narratives for mobility innovations
The current strongly solidified, dominant narrative of ‘mobility as disutility’ no longer helps us to meaningfully engage with the fundamental dilemmas of urban mobility. We lack powerful, inclusive, open narratives that can complement, challenge, or displace it. With such high stakes for our common mobility futures, Urban Mobility Futures seeks to identify seeds of emerging alternatives, to nurture and amplify their potential impact through co-visioning, and to empower emerging alternative futures through the development of policy and innovation pathways.
Urban Mobility Futures maps and analyses the landscape of smart cycling innovation and identifies its key features: what does it say about the imaginaries of the futures of smart cycling and about how mobility presents are contested or maintained? This helps us to understand where we are (not) going, and perhaps more importantly: what and where we are departing from. This will increase our awareness of what is being sold, which will allow us to reflect on its desirability and potential negative externalities, instead of sleepwalking into them.
There is currently a lot of interest in cycling data from various stakeholders around the world. The increasing availability of cycling data is believed to help the case of cycling in different contexts. Such data however is not value-free and understanding its politics helps us to collect, analyze, and use such data in policymaking in a thoughtfulmanner. Limitations of different ways of collecting and using data relate to representativeness, accuracy, and usability for particular types of demands.
By looking through the lenses of alternative mobility narratives, mobility innovations can be understood in a richer way when they are still in the earlier stages of development. For instance, unintended and possible perverse effects on society can be identified. Such a richer understanding can then support a reconsidering of the innovation itself. By supporting loops of active redesign, mobility innovations can be more sensitive for the complex nature of the urban mobility system when they 'hit the road'.