Urban life should be enhanced, not diminished, by transportation solutions

  • 2018-09-13 06:00
  • Richard Butter

They say it happens to every writer, but for me it was a first – as I sat down to type this column I experienced my first writer’s block. Searching for inspiration I came across the website of American author Jeff Goins. He says, “To overcome a writer’s block, the best way is to go for a walk.” Or in my case, for a ride on my bike. On reading this I felt fortunate, because I had already planned to cycle to work the next day…

At 6:00am the following morning the weather was perfect for my ride. It was already 20°C [68°F], no wind, the sunshine rapidly burning off a little light fog, and it was peaceful and quiet on the roads – giving me the opportunity to really enjoy the ride and the scenery. The inspiration came immediately. This column had to be a philosophical one. I was enjoying life on my bike even though I had ridden the same route at least 40 times since I first started work at the RAI four years ago. So, how can we harness such good feelings in the traffic technology industry? Is it possible for a commuter to get the same great feeling as I had that morning, without necessarily cycling on a beautiful day like I did?

That’s a difficult question to answer. On the one hand I observe several big trends that won’t bring such a situation closer. For instance, world economic growth is increasing mobility; we travel more often and travel further; the infrastructure capacity is becoming a bottleneck in cities; there’s worldwide urbanization (70% of us will live in cities by 2050, according to the World Economic Forum); and sustainable and healthy living in urban areas are a coming under pressure as well. On the other hand, the combination of digitization and mobile communication is changing the social concept of traffic, which could be extremely positive.

It’s crystal clear – we’re not only managing traffic anymore, now we are managing traffic and mobility. The technology brings us the flexibility in the way we travel and the insights that it gives us save money, but most importantly it can give us extra quality time to enjoy life – as I did that morning on my bike.

And for cities? Cities will experience fewer road accidents and reduced emissions. A big win-win for mankind, because it makes our planet safe and healthier to live in. At the end of the day, that’s all that really matters.

All that said, infrastructure still has a part to play. And, once again, Amsterdam demonstrates this well. Yesterday the city opened one of the most high-tech metro lines in the world. The new North/South line also makes RAI Amsterdam easily accessible from the city center. I had to try it and, indeed, within the blink of the eye I was at Amsterdam’s famous Albert Cuyp Market. A nice example of an easy and convenient way to access the city.

As is so often the case, complex problems require multiple solutions. Although for me, a ride on my bike still often works best…

Richard Butter is director of traffic technology at RAI Amsterdam and is responsible for Intertraffic worldwide events,

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