One of the emerging policy trends of 2018 appears to be an assertion of authority by cities over the arrival of new mobility solutions. And the catalyst? Well one strong factor seems to be the lessons learned from the arrival of large scale dockless bike sharing solutions in Europe since 2017.

By: Kevin Mayne, ECF Development Director

Many cities found that they didn’t have the regulatory frameworks and bylaws to deal with the new arrivals so set about finding solutions to take control of the situation. This was a catalyst in the formation of the Platform for European Bike Sharing and Systems in 2017 and the launch of our framework for sustainable bike sharing.

EU Transport Commissioner Violetta Bulc acknowledged the problems facing regulators in her opening speech to the World Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) Congress in September. The EU has been strictly limited in its regulation of vehicle use, Member States jealously guarding the principle of subsidiarity when it comes to the driving, licencing and usage rules for all vehicles so the EU can only legislate on manufacturing rules under single-market rules.

For the first time the EU has created usage rules for vehicles in one class, simply because it was impossible to create a market without common regulation. The breakthrough? We wish it was e-bikes, but it is drones that have broken the barriers, but the pressure to address new vehicles lead Bulc to suggest “we may have to do this more often in the future”.

For now that principle doesn’t apply, so cities are acting for themselves, for example policies are being applied to the arrival of electric scooter schemes much more rapidly when the bike schemes arrived, with solutions from total bans to bidding schemes for operating licences.

ECF has heard this demand for control by cities in other spheres too. In the Mobility as a Service Alliance meeting within the ITS congress we heard city after city insist that they must impose their policy objectives on any MaaS solution that was used in their area. Why? Because they are worried that large international commercial MaaS solutions will find it easier to strike commercial deals with care hire, taxi and ride-hailing services and increase car use in their cities and take trips away from public transport, cycling and walking.

Just as ECF has been raising awareness of the challenge in the cycling community European city network POLIS has been at the forefront of raising the issue with its city members with a good policy paper on the issues published late last year. The response we are seeing is that many cities and regions have decided to step into the MaaS space by providing their own MaaS solution integrating their own multi-modal services and data collection at the same time. Cities and Regions for Cyclists member Antwerp is at the leading edge of this change.

Generally, that can be good news for bike sharing because many cities take a much stronger stand on reduced car use than their national governments and the EU and they already have a close relationship with local bike sharing providers. International platform providers are increasingly introducing bike sharing in their multi-modality platforms, encouraged by a combination of city policy and customer demand. New Cycling Industries Europe member Uber has gone further by acquiring e-bike sharing company JUMP bikes, arguing that this is an essential addition to its services.

The weakness for policy and commercial operators is that a lack of coordination means constant reinvention for each city which costs time, money and economies of scale. Creating standards is a pressing issue for members of European Platform for Bike Sharing and Solutions who will be joining Cycling Industries Europe in 2019.

Will the trend continue?

Based on various foresight reports and planning exercises by the EU and its agencies the changes to mobility systems have barely started. This is not just the continued focus on autonomous driving by the media, it is more likely to be the emergence of complex mobility solutions. Many forecasters and researchers predict a much greater boom in the light electric vehicle space than any other category, not least China’s commercial giant Alibaba.

It won’t just be cities that have a very demanding challenge through these changes. Cycling partners have to combine all our policy and business expertise to support and lobby cities to balance cycling growth with reduction in car use during this dynamic period of innovation. It is a driving force behind the new collaboration between ECF and Cycling Industries Europe, which will be needed to make sure all our expertise is available to the whole stakeholder community, especially our city partners.


Original post, November 2018: