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New mobility solutions primed for post-lockdown world

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The announcement of a new collaboration in the mobility sector aims to boost the free-movement of essential workers at a time when the rate of adoption of mobility solutions is likely to be fundamentally affected by the ongoing pandemic.

The collaboration between bike share operator nextbike, the Cardiff Bus app and its developer Passenger, has come at an unusual time in the industry when the nationwide lockdown is still underway.

Peter Golding, managing director at FleetCheck, pointed out: “Most mobility solutions rely on multi-user use of assets at a time when the sharing of almost any asset could lead to the virus being much more widely distributed.

“Whether it is car sharing, ride sharing, access to pool vehicles or public transport, in a world that is coping with the coronavirus, all of these options become much more problematic. They are inevitably much riskier and potentially dangerous than the one driver, one vehicle model that they seek to replace.”

Despite these issues, executives at the three mobility operators firmly believe that the unveiling of this service will allow essential workers to travel around the city, and looking past the lockdown, it will permit passengers more control over their journeys.

Krysia Solheim, managing director at nextbike, explained: “This collaboration allows us to empower Cardiff citizens to make more choices about the way they travel, which is going to be even more important moving forward post-lockdown.

“During the pandemic, we’ve been monitoring the situation constantly and current evidence shows that the COVID-19 virus doesn’t survive for long in the open air, meaning using a nextbike is considered a reasonably low-risk way of getting around.

“To minimise risks even further, we’re continuing to carry out enhanced cleaning measures at our warehouses, including sanitising the handlebars and bike computers of all bicycles before they are redistributed and again when they are checked in the field.”

The Cardiff Bus app reportedly has around 53,000 monthly users and the addition of the nextbike service will allow passengers to see how many nextbikes are available at bays near bus routes across the city, and will give them the added flexibility to “hop off” a service and grab an available bike to travel on.

Tom Quay, chief executive officer at Passenger, said: “Anticipating the challenges the UK would have trying to social distance on public transport, we immediately knew that cycle hire schemes could make a difference. Key workers can now see the locations of nextbikes across Cardiff, providing them with travel options that support social distancing recommendations.”

Personal space versus mobility solutions

Looking at the problem from a fleet sector perspective, fleet management software provider FleetCheck forecast that grey fleet use would increase as people began undertaking journeys in their own, personal space due to the pandemic.

In line with this prediction, the Government has altered it’s stance on car-sharing in recent months, initially warning the public not to share a private vehicle with someone from another household, and latterly suggesting that people who were unable to walk, cycle or drive their own car could car share, but should take precautions to mitigate risk. This was hoped to reduce the use of public transport as the lockdown gradually begins to ease.

Golding concluded: “It seems to us that coronavirus will have a fundamental effect on the mobility sector, at least this side of a vaccine or cure for the virus. Whichever risk management measures you adopt to offset the dangers of any form of sharing of transport, issues remain.

“There may instead be a fundamental shift in how fleets now view the future away from the mixed-solution vision of mobility that has been widely promoted in recent years.”

Suggesting a possible alternative, he added that the industry could look towards single-user transport solutions, particularly for shorter journeys, such as the range of one or two-person personal electric vehicles the hit the market recently.”