News & opinion
Read the latest news from across the whole sector that highlights the development of affordable, accessible and low-carbon shared mobility
News - 1 Feb 2021
Hub of the matter
READ RICHARD DILKS’ LATEST LOCAL TRANSPORT TODAY ARTICLE“You’re on mute” was not part of my vocabulary before Covid-19 lockdowns; something I doubt I am alone in. Now it feels as if the phrase will never leave me; and again I doubt I am alone in thinking that. You could very well argue it should actually have been part of my working life before Covid-19; that I should have been getting out less and holding virtual meetings more. As I write we are in another set of national lockdowns, which will surely intensify the trends of staying local and thus travelling less, and particularly to, from and for work less, into the long-term. Yet we must also assume, I think, that although 2021 is currently looking a lot more like 2020 than we all had hoped, normal service in terms of freedom of movement will return in phases throughout the year. A multitude of habits will have been broken, formed and re-formed in the meantime. As I have discussed before, this has had its upsides and its downsides from the point of view of making transport sustainable in environmental terms. The Committee on Climate Change’s sixth carbon budget report was an early Christmas present of deeper insight for those with their sights set on net zero greenhouse gas emissions, those who remember that target is meant to be hit by 2050 at the latest rather than by New Year’s Eve 2049. Its surface transport sub-report is well worth reading, and I was delighted to see it make multiple and positive references to shared transport such as schemes to share cars and bikes. A quick game of cloud/silver lining with lockdown impacts shows an intensely mixed picture. While transport emissions have fallen, the proportion of trips made by car has increased and the proportion by public transport has fallen; while many have welcomed the extra family or personal time that the lack of a commute has brought, others have felt pushed into the costs, physical inactivity and environmental impacts of private car ownership; while organising discussion events that include different audiences has become much easier, including those on lower incomes or other measures of socio-economic deprivation; and while micromobility lanes and low traffic neighbourhoods have come, some have gone again or been partly rowed back on. Humans have throughout history travelled to and from work and leisure, and will continue to do so once lockdowns end. Yet surely there is a potential diminution of travel and switch to more sustainable means underway that we can harness? One powerful way to do this is to build mobility/community hubs, which I have written about before in these pages (LTT 08 Nov 19). Such hubs are where shared, public and active transport modes come together with some element of public realm improvement to make them recognisable as hubs. If that sounds like a long list, it can be satisfied by a bus stop, shared car parking bay, some cycle parking and a hub sign in the one place. The community and place aspects to this shot up the agenda in 2020, powered by the lockdown revolution in travel patterns. Just what is an essential journey has been put through wartime-like tests several times over, and of course there are fewer destinations open to go to even once lockdowns have at times eased, and habits are notoriously sticky once formed. This deepens the opportunity to integrate existing or planned community facilities in with transport options and potentially tackle all three elements of the avoid/shift/improve rubric of cutting transport emissions. Also rising fast up the mobility hub agenda is the role of logistics, which can fit in from pick-up and drop-off lockers, through to cargo or e-cargo bike-based micro-consolidation and distribution hubs, through potentially to macro-scale logistics hubs. More stuff is coming to us, rather than us going to it, but suitable land and suitable modes for the distribution of this stuff will increasingly need to be found if we are to avoid gridlock and bend that emissions curve downwards. I think the power of these hubs is twofold. First, they provide a clustered, clearly communicated, tailored set of ‘carrots’ – helping people find and use sustainable transport options. Secondly, and partly as a result of that first point, they can enable the removal or lack of construction of those mortal enemies of sustainable transport such as free or cheap parking, roads that function well for vehicles only, insufficient residential or workplace density – all of which make collective journeys via public, community or shared transport options such as lift-sharing a challenge or even an impossibility. We are, happily, now starting to see hubs and plans for hubs come to fruition across the country. We have pulled together a map on our website of all hubs we are aware of that are in gestation. At CoMoUK we also provide a quarterly discussion space on hubs to which all are welcome (drop me an email), as well as an introductory guide, which defines six types of hub. Excitingly, we have now developed an accreditation standard for hubs and the launch of the first CoMoUK accredited hub is I think not far away. This accreditation draws on our expertise and experience over the years in accrediting bike share and car club operators. It takes account of the fact that some hubs – for example in smaller locations in rural areas – are very unlikely to ever have a plethora of facilities. It is designed so that it can be used to assess a hub that is being built or has been finished, but also for those still on the drawing board. Work we are undertaking at the moment on the business models of hubs will sit naturally alongside accreditation as, we hope, useful resources to those seeking to take a hubs approach. An important realisation during accreditation design was that even though a hub may have the exact same ingredients as another hub its context and thus overall offering to users and other stakeholders will always be unique, which in a commoditised world feels refreshing. For example the rail station may be on site, or ten minutes’ walk away. Thus each hub needs to be seen in its own particular setting. Part of the point of any accreditation scheme is to deliver good, appropriate standards of user experience; to promote and give confidence in the concept; and also to hopefully shortcut some thinking time by saving the hub wheel from being fully reinvented each time. Because we feel it is important to keep hubs’ components and their use under review and to check they are well maintained we will be limiting the validity of our accreditation to two years. We foresee that researching user and indeed non-user experience of hubs will be important to keeping them fresh and learning fast, particularly in the post-Covid era. So we also see accreditation as working symbiotically with such research and aim to design and run some ourselves in the future if that would fulfil a need. There is a reason such hubs are popular in a growing number of comparator countries – they work. While none of us want to be on mute or indeed online so much longer-term, for all our futures there are some activities that we will need to turn the volume down on and some we need to turn the volume up on in transport. Hubs can help us do both.
Richard Dilks[embeddoc url="https://como.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/LTT815-page-25b.pdf" download="all"]
News - 11 Dec 2020
New UK alliance formed for green and fair transport
CoMoUK is proud to be part of a new partnership alongside eight other walking, cycling, public transport and shared mobility groups. Collectively, we have come together to support and galvanise work to cut greenhouse gas emissions with less than one year to go until COP26 in Glasgow. The Sustainable Transport Alliance has been established by: the Community Rail Network; the Campaign for Better Transport; Greener Journeys; Bus Users UK; the Community Transport Association; Living Streets; Sustrans; the London Cycling Campaign; and Collaborative Mobility UK (CoMoUK). Greenhouse gas emissions from road transport currently make up around a fifth of the UK’s total emissions, and transport is the largest-emitting single economic sector. Private car use needs to be cut by between 20 and 60 per cent by 2030, which requires a transition to healthier, greener modes of transport: walking and cycling; community, public and shared transport such as car, cycle or e-scooter sharing schemes. Ahead of COP26 in Glasgow, the UK-wide alliance said rapidly reducing private car use is ‘crucial to safeguarding our climate and tackling air pollution’. We have set three top priorities for the alliance:
- Communicate that public, shared and community transport, alongside active travel, is beneficial and aspirational, crucial to recovery, our climate and communities.
- Create opportunities for collaboration and innovation across the transport field, involving local, national and devolved governments, and putting communities at the heart of positive change.
- Bring partners and evidence together to galvanise strategic and systemic progress on sustainable, inclusive transport in the build-up to COP-26.
News - 3 Nov 2020
Facing up to meeting online
READ RICHARD DILKS’ LATEST LOCAL TRANSPORT TODAY ARTICLEHere at CoMoUK we are putting together an online conference. Who isn’t? you might well ask. Time and our audiences will tell how successfully we will have pivoted into the different media we use in 2020. Instead of discussing catering and table layouts we have been debating the merits of different platforms for different functions. Out has gone the shaky video link from afar and in has come the hopefully steady-as-a-rock video link from far and wide. They are media that pre-existed the Covid pandemic; it’s just that now we are using them much more of course. There is a wider lesson there I think: let us look to the tools we already have in our hands that can lessen our impact on the planet and make sure we are doing all we credibly can with those before we reach for new ones. Some of this has been incredibly positive. Although we did a creditable job at this previously, getting colleagues to attend from public authorities was something we had to work at hard. That has eased considerably – all they need to do is to click a link at the right time and take part from wherever they are. Similarly, with international speakers. In other words, inclusivity is up because barriers to entry are down. There is plenty to be taken from that at a philosophical level too (as I attempted to cover when I analysed our experience of social inclusion and bike share in LTT01 May). Whether we achieve the same levels of engagement remains to be seen. There is a wider parallel here too. There is no simpler way to cut transport emissions than to not trans- port somebody or something in the first place. But we are social animals and this comes at a cost to us, our networks, our experiences of life. My experience tells me that online connected time is not the same as face-to-face time. It is somehow both quicker and slower, and certainly more draining, while also being often very rich and full. Our discussions about the conference format concluded that mimicking the formats (I nearly wrote ‘old formats’ there) of face-to- face events was unlikely to be the way forward. We have instead tried to adapt. That’s another lesson – we must surely throw our energies into designing around the world we now have, as we continue to move through this pandemic, rather than the world we used to have. So out went the modal sessions we used to run in favour of sticking with themes. I anticipate these will form a lot of the talking points for us in this critical decade ahead. We’ll start with where we are now – Covid and its disruptions. Laying aside the awful human health impacts of the pandemic, I think it is clear that there are significant transport benefits (less travel, much more walking and cycling) that have occurred, but very large questions over whether they can be sustained; and that there have also been significant disbenefits (motorised traffic back to pre-Covid levels within the context of much lower travel demand overall). Then we will move on to setting a greenhouse gas emissions agenda for the UK as a country with one year to go before hosting COP26 (the planning for which continues on the basis of a face-to-face event), which will rightly be a calling card over the coming year for those seeking to cut transport emissions. We have a session on urban, which understandably gets lots of attention. It is where most of our fellow citizens (a telling word) live, after all, and where most of our emissions come from in transport, and where the concentrations of those emissions cause the greatest harm. We also, however, have a session on rural, which is packed with speakers and interest – and I think one side-benefit of Covid may well prove to be renewed vigour in sustainable rural transport (LTT20 Dec 19), but this will undoubtedly be challenging. Which is not a euphemism for impossible. Hubs (LTT08 Nov 19) are a focus and relate to both urban and rural and the space in-between. Our speaker mix reflects the actor mix in the emerging mobility and community hub economy, an economy we plan to do more work to help in the near future. The impact of Covid here has undoubtedly been to move away from just the mobility aspect and more towards the community one. As some people leave cities and others whose lifestyle was based on significant distance commuting are finding themselves working from home much more, we expect that is a balance that will neither remain as it is currently – but nor will it tip back to how it was before. We’ll be tackling strategy and procurement, which perhaps doesn’t sound as sexy as, say, strategy and vision but is in fact where a lot of this cutting emissions stuff will actually be decided. Having a vision is important but far from sufficient in the game of emissions reduction: just ask those local authorities who have declared climate emergencies but failed to take any other significant steps. Or look at the lack of progress on clean air zones. Strategies can drift into visions, especially when they have very long-term overall targets but a dearth of short- and medium-term targets and measures. The London Mayor’s current transport strategy largely fits in this category, sadly; as does the Government’s actions on cutting greenhouse gas emissions. I think – and I do hope I am correct – that neither will remain in this category. Then we will turn to the (under-played) role of employers and institutions in achieving emissions cuts, greater use of sustainable modes and changing user behaviour. I see them as a critical enabler in the decade ahead. Finally, we will look at 2025. Remember when that seemed a very long time away? Floating conveniently in a Buck Rogers-type distance? It is only just over four years away so it really is time to start thinking where we should be by then, not least as we will have used up half the critical decade by that point. It will be interesting to hark back to this moment in time then and see what has endured. Will we be in a 2008 parallel, where climate consciousness was raised only to be dashed on rocks labelled ‘economy recovery’? Or will we find ways to rebuild our economy without further damaging our planet? The conference is free to attend and details including registration are at https://conference.como.org.uk/ Hope to see you there!
Richard Dilks[embeddoc url="https://como.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/LTT810-page-27.pdf" download="all"]
News - 27 Oct 2020
Scottish Bespoke Advice Service
CoMoUK offers free bespoke advice, funded by Transport Scotland, to any Scottish organistion interested in establishing a shared transport scheme, or promoting the use of an existing scheme. This advice is available to local authorities, public sector and third sector organisations, community groups and businesses in Scotland. CoMoUK can provide advice and support on:
- Different operational models for shared schemes including the benefits and limitations of each.
- The feasibility of a shared car or bike scheme in your local area, including support with developing a business case.
- Technical advice for setting up a shared transport scheme.
- Funding opportunities.
Scottish Micro-Grants 2020In 2020/21, CoMoUK has funding to offer micro-grants of up to £2,500 to established Scottish community groups who are setting-up new shared transport schemes – either bike share or car share. The aim of the fund is to help facilitate the sharing of the assets, for example the grant can be used for telematics or booking / billing software etc. Click the link below for more information.
ForumsCoMoUK also holds regular shared transport forums on the different shared transport modes, if you are interested in signing up to a forum, please drop us an email and we can sign you up.
News - 26 Oct 2020
On-demand bus scheme for passengers in Scotland needed
CoMoUK has submitted proposals to the Scottish government for on-demand bus services to be introduced in a bid to help communities cut-off by reductions in local services. The full report can be read below. The ‘flexible bus’ initiative would allow operators to use ‘Demand Responsive Technology’ which would link local buses with the people who need them. The proposal is among several ideas we submitted in evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee. Similar schemes are up and running elsewhere in the UK including Flex Tees in the Tees Valley and Go Coach in Kent, which are being used to help connect passengers with essential services and have been keeping key workers moving during the Covid-19 crisis. In Newport, the city’s ‘fflecsi’ service system replaces some scheduled local bus services with more flexible services rather than following a set timetable at fixed bus stops, and buses are ordered either via a mobile phone app or by calling a phone number.
News - 16 Sep 2020
Councils should boost car clubs for the post-Covid commute
PRESS RELEASE: Councils should boost car clubs for the post-Covid commute Councils should take advantage of changing commuter habits by introducing specific car-sharing strategies, a leading transport charity has said. In a briefing for all 32 local authorities in Scotland, CoMoUK said office-based workers are more likely to work at home in the post-coronavirus era. For many workers, that means running their own vehicle will be less affordable, making the prospect of car clubs more appealing. CoMoUK has called on councils to create more spaces for car clubs on public roads and target specific areas where people will be changing their working habits. In the briefing for local authorities, the charity said other shared transport initiatives can also help drive economic recovery. It said shared mobility hubs linking up different forms of transport and the expansion of bike sharing schemes should all be considered. Scotland director Lorna Finlayson also said focusing on deprived areas could improve health outcomes for those on lower incomes, and help tackle ‘transport poverty’. The Scottish Parliament is currently taking evidence on Scotland’s green recovery, a process aimed at helping the economy deal with challenges posed by coronavirus and climate change. Lorna Finlayson, Scotland director of CoMoUK, said: “We know that one of the changes in a post-Covid economy will be more people working at home. “That will reduce the number of commuter journeys made in a car, as many people just won’t see the benefit of running their own vehicle any longer. “This will open the door for car club schemes, and councils need to be ready with a strategy to take advantage of these shifts in behaviour. “It benefits everyone, as car clubs are more likely to use environmentally-friendly vehicles, and it will reduce the amount of traffic on the streets while saving people money. “COVID-19 has devastated Scotland’s economy and we can’t go back to the old ways of doing things. “If local authorities start preparing for a green future now, it could help save commuters money and move Scotland closer to hitting its climate change targets.” [embeddoc url="https://como.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/Shared-transport-driving-the-post-Covid-recovery.pdf" download="all"]
News - 9 Sep 2020
Decarbonisation: cutting edge ideas from the past
READ RICHARD DILKS’ LATEST LOCAL TRANSPORT TODAY ARTICLEDecarbonisation? Yes, yes, we know all about that. So last decade! The Climate Change Act is dated 2008, after all. Isn’t that all sorted now? No, of course it’s not. Readers of LTT need no reminding that transport is now the largest emitting sector or that its emissions have actually risen since 2013. The Government has revived the issue by calling for ideas on its own Decarbonising Transport: Setting the Challenge document published in March this year. I recently found an old pamphlet that CoMoUK’s predecessor organisation produced about sustainable property development and sustainable transport. You could reproduce its content today and it would still be fresh, cutting edge even. This stuff is, we can therefore conclude, not new in concept. It is not new news. Nor are the ingredients new. CoMoUK is about to turn 21. It is ten years since the London Cycle Hire Scheme opened. The DfT itself published a guide on making car sharing and car clubs work back in March 2005. Yet what we might do about it – really do about it, make substantial educated pivots in policy and practice as a country – is actually new, because a lot of it has not happened yet. The pages of LTT have been excellent hunting grounds for ideas here, such as the changes needed to transport scheme appraisal. If we see transport as a game of football – bear with me – then we need the run of play and shots on goal to be in the right direction. The earlier we can get this happening, the less spectacular the goals will have to be later on. Fundamental to this is getting the goalposts in the right spots. Much of what I have here circles around this thinking, and deliberately spans different approaches. I claim no monopoly whatsoever on wisdom and would love to hear your thoughts in response. Avoid / shift / improve featured in a number of responses to the Government’s call for ideas which I have seen, and rightly so. The question is how to achieve it. I think we will need to have binding targets to achieve this; and I don’t mean the kind that end in a zero with a number before that which is a comfortable number of decades away. These targets would therefore be to avoid some travel altogether, particularly that which is highest emitting; shift the travel demand that remains to sustainable modes as far as possible; and improve on what is left. Of course, all this is on one level laughably old hat and searingly new. Are we now at a point, pushed by Covid 19 and pulled by the climate crisis, where a government could put in place formal, near-term targets on avoid, shift and improve? While we all need to get our metaphorical houses in order, authorities getting their own houses in order is an important part of the mix. Through channelling the internal spend of governmental departments, executive agencies, transport authorities, local authorities, NHS bodies and so on to decarbonisation a huge amount of change can be achieved. This would naturally form part of the national level targets already mentioned, but in addition there should be entity and sector-specific targets that, again, are binding. We cannot expect bodies that are fundamentally part of a command and control bureaucratic structure to change unless they are given the permission and direction to do so. External spend by public authorities should pass through a decarbonisation test before being approved, with a recalibration of transport investment needed before this can happen. Joined-up government is another idea from the pages of recent history that remains so often unimplemented. Transport being a derived demand, it is of course far too limiting to approach decarbonising transport from the point of view of transport provision. Covid-19 has powerfully reinforced this point for us all. The biggest change in transport patterns in peacetime has not been achieved from within transport. The Government must approach this problem across itself, rather than simply from within its own transport department. HM Treasury, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs in particular hold absolutely key roles in whether transport decarbonisation can be achieved or not. The spiral can either go downwards, whereby the transport department is left to achieve without cross-departmental joint working and inevitably fail under such an intolerable burden; or upward whereby each department is pulling its decarbonising weight. So, that’s what the Government needs to do. But it will need all of us to be doing things differently. Doing this means making the decarbonising choices the easy and cheap ones and the carbonising ones the hard and pricey options. There is an element of regression in using price of course, but the vast majority of consumer purchases are heavily shaped by price so to ignore its power is to doom the attempt. I have written before about going after the lower hanging fruit first on this. This means clusters. Employers are a very obvious one and Government should reset the targets and incentives on them to achieve the behaviour change decarbonisation demands. For our part in shared transport, we contend – on strong evidence – that shared transport can play a significant role in decarbonisation. It is already reducing carbon consumption by thousands of tonnes per year and across car clubs and bike share has over three quarters of a million members. Yet it can go so much further; we have calculated potential savings from switchable households into six figures of annual carbon tonne savings. Government needs to further understand how shared transport can deliver on decarbonisation and set a policy direction for its inclusion in transport decision-making in a sustained way, adopting the five-year rhythm and pipeline now common place in rail, road and walking and cycling. Taking choice and popular options away from people with no substitute is something democratic leaders understandably struggle with. One of the lessons I have drawn from the extreme situation of Covid-19 is that people can and will adapt where there are alternatives, and that many journeys previously deemed necessary have turned out not to be. They will also respond to an immediate threat, and to what Government tells them. It’s hard to know how much of this will apply in more normal times as we continue on our journey to decarbonisation. But some of the impact from lockdown will remain. Am I wrong? I would love to hear your views. What have I missed out? Do get in touch.
Richard Dilks[embeddoc url="https://como.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/LTT7806-Mobility-Matters-1.pdf" download="all" viewer="google"]
News - 2 Sep 2020
20 Minute Neighbourhoods
Scotland NewsThe First Minister for Scotland has announced in her Programme for Government that £500m will be invested over the next five years to support active travel and £275m will support investment in communities including ‘20 minute neighbourhoods’ - enabling people to live, learn, and meet their needs within a 20 minute walk of their home.
CoMoUK CommentCOVID-19 has devastated Scotland’s economy and we can’t go back to the old ways of doing things. This announcement from the First Minister is very welcome and will help to deliver a green recovery for Scotland. Shared transport is a key part of active travel, with Scottish towns and cities offering bike hire schemes and car clubs as an alternative to private vehicles, while 20 minute neighbourhoods will also encourage people to walk more – helping to reduce harmful vehicle emissions. As we emerge from the pandemic, we need to take bold action to encourage behavioural change and make sure that we promote green alternatives for post-Covid travel. Lorna Finlayson, Scotland Director CoMoUK