“The transport revolution will be decided in the cities.”
23.06.2021 | Mobility
Dr Stefan Gössling is the head of the T3 Think Tank. With support from Riese & Müller, this research institute is tackling the theoretical and applied questions of mobility. Stefan explains to us in 5 points why the transport revolution is now vital and what role E-Bikes and Cargo Bikes will play in it.
1.) Society pays for driving – but it benefits from cycling.
If people knew the real cost of driving, many people would never consider driving a car from Hamburg to Munich. A kilometre driven costs society in Germany an average of 27 cents, while a kilometre cycled yields 30 cents. Policy-makers should therefore promote cycling.
But even privately, driving is expensive – especially if you add up the cost of owning a car your whole life. We calculated these costs at the T3 Think Tank and will soon be publishing the exciting results. They give us all a reason to rethink our means of transport.
2.) Climate-neutral mobility needs individual solutions.
25 percent of all emissions are accounted for by transport. Total emissions need to fall to 0 within 30 years – by 2050 – to stop climate change.
Mobility is extremely individual: while one person may constantly fly, another might only cycle. The difference in the ecological footprint is massive. For this reason, we have to look beyond the system as a whole and consider individuals.
And not only that – households have an increasing number of cars. In Germany, the net number of vehicles is rising by over a million a year. That is why emissions produced by automotive traffic has remained constant for 25 years.
If this development persists, we will be incapable of achieving the “net zero” goal set by the international community in German traffic.
3.) This is why every other street has to be turned into a bicycle highway.
As our problem is fundamentally individual, we cannot solve it through technical innovations alone. We need to change our traffic behaviour and break the trend of increasing numbers of cars and flights witnessed in the past decades.
This is only possible by creating appealing alternatives. We need stable and reliable public transport and an urban infrastructure focusing primarily on cycling and pedestrian traffic. Every other street actually has to be turned into a bicycle highway or bikeway.
You can cycle everywhere quickly when covering the typical distances of about 5 kilometres in German cities. And you do not even necessarily need an E-Bike.
There is hard data proving that most trips can be made by bike. In Freiburg, for instance, bikes account for 34 percent of journeys, and the figure is 27 percent throughout the Netherlands.
2050 is approaching fast. It should act as a wake-up call that – even under the extreme conditions of a pandemic – not all municipal authorities were willing to implement temporary pop-up cycle paths. It is thus time for cities to take action and do more for cycling.
The question is whether policy-makers want to implement the necessary measures, but the transport revolution will be decided in the cities.
4.) E-Bikes are the optimum solution for medium-distance commuters.
German cities are inundated with commuter traffic. Space is becoming ever more precious and expensive: many people can no longer afford to live in the city and are being pushed outside into the surrounding areas. This is resulting in long commutes and, during rush hour, commuter traffic grinds to a complete halt.
E-Bikes are thus an ideal choice for distances of over 10 kilometres. But the necessary infrastructure needs further improvement for this form of commuting to become attractive to more people.
- In Beijing, for instance, there are roundabouts for cyclists elevated above the road. No cyclists have to wait at traffic lights, and the modes of transport remain separated.
- In Copenhagen today, the central planning principle is to increase the average speed of cycle traffic.
Many health-related studies also demonstrate that it pays to rely on cycling: people who switch to cycling usually stick with it.
Cycling has many positive impacts. Of course, it is physically beneficial, because exercise boosts your health. But it also has benefits in terms of mental health in the form of the little moments of happiness you experience while cycling. 1
5.) Cargo Bikes play a crucial role for delivery traffic – and will make a lasting impression on the
We live in an online ordering culture, which is bringing a flood of delivery traffic to cities.
This delivery traffic needs to be restructured into smaller transport units. Van or truck delivery services are to be directed to hubs from where Cargo Bikes or so-called 'porters' set off to carry the goods to their destination. This is much more efficient than sending huge delivery vans into congested inner cities.
This involves a major need to rethink the service. Many delivery services still consider the issue to be too intensive in terms of cost and staffing. This is due to the prevailing idea that a big delivery vehicle with only one driver is cheaper than three delivery people on Cargo Bikes.
For instance for the road users referred to in the US as “soccer moms”, the mothers (or parents in general) who drive their children to training and sports events and pick them up again.
In Copenhagen, there was a campaign to redefine “soccer moms” in a Danish context – as someone who takes their kids to nursery school by Cargo Bike. This also opens up new dimensions for their children in terms of what they feel, hear and see, and familiarises them with cycling as a natural mode of transport and cultural form.
Dr Stefan Gössling studied Geography and Biology in Münster, Germany before obtaining his PhD in Human Ecology in Lund, Sweden. He headed to Freiburg in Germany for his postdoc in Human Geography before returning to Lund to take up a professorship. In his work, he repeatedly encountered the limits of efficiency in university research due to administrative obstacles. That is why he founded his own independent research establishment: the T3 Think Tank.
The objective: to invest as much funding from sponsors, such as Riese & Müller, in research positions and to be scientifically relevant. For research to be relevant, it requires national and international media coverage.
The focus of the scientific work goes far beyond transportation as a whole, and the issues the teams of researchers are working on are just as diverse:
They include the policy options of controlling air traffic or reducing emissions in shipping, contemplating how safe routes to school could look from a child's perspective, or designing mobility for elderly people in rural areas.