REBALANCE Input to Policy Makers:
Making Mobility Meaningful to People
Making Mobility Meaningful to People
As a cultural and political initiative, REBALANCE developed original scenarios on the future dynamics of transport and mobility, along with a novel and deeper attention to the cultural and value-based factors that shape the European mobility culture of today and reflect the deeper roots behind the trends and signals that drive mobility choices. Based on a series of intense deliberative activities involving high level thinkers, visioners, experts and stakeholders, REBALANCE designed alternative narratives of mobility and proposed a “Vision” for Europe 2050. On this basis, the project co-created and validate a new transport paradigm and designed a Roadmap to achieve it, outlining concrete and feasible strategies for implementing it.
REBALANCE Alternative Narratives of Mobility
Four very contrasted “models” of mobility culture were identified and illustrated, each corresponding to different sets of values, priorities and cultural tenets. from Hercules (the myth of strength), where a rigid society is guided by hard powers, to Themis (the myth of justice), where soft powers prevail in handling the rigidity of society. From Gaia (the myth of interconnections), where a fluid society is kept afloat by recurring to soft policy instruments to Hermes (the myth of speed), where command-and-control policies keep a fluid society in check.
The future evolution, if we continue to “do nothing” in the sense of following the same lines of the past and the present, is likely to move closer to Hermes. however, preferences and desires of the wide array of experts and stakeholders who engaged with the rebalance research showed a clear determination towards Themis and Gaia with a slight inclination to the latter. Postmaterialist values are emerging: communitarianism and solidarity, as well as an increasing environmental awareness.
REBALANCE Vision: A World Free from Meaningless Mobility
The resulting shared vision has the overarching objective of imagining a new transport paradigm that reclaims the proper place of culture in the policy-making process. As proposed by John Urry (2007) and other thinkers from different disciplines: mobility is not just a demand derived from social and economic activities; it has a meaning in itself.
The key points of the REBALANCE Vision are:
- Mobility should always be meaningful, not forced and compulsory, made of cities with inclusive and mixed-uses areas, open communities who invest in physical proximity and digital communication over compulsive mobility. We advocate more creative workplaces and educational facilities able to provide more flexible working schedules and learning models.
- Rebalancing extreme values is necessary for the welfare and flourishing of life: we need to recalibrate fast and slow, stress and calm, freedom and safety or security, creativity and care, cultural diversity and social inclusion.
- The quality and inclusiveness of the public transport system, terminals and vehicles indicate how healthy a given community is. Walking is healthier and grants communities a greater proximity: it is in stations, at bus stops and inside public transport vehicles that people from different income-levels, age, gender and cultural origin spontaneously meet.
- Transport services should also offer comfort, hospitality and conviviality, not just provide safety and reliability. Besides, vehicles and facilities should be designed to facilitate travellers in engaging, during their travelling time, in other valuable activities.
- By providing faster and cheaper mass transport, we are not necessarily improving our living conditions in the long run. People are actually living when travelling, and a richer experience may well justify a longer route. Mobility does not always need to be decreased, or slowed down, but should also begin to translate into an increase of personal and social welfare.
REBALANCE Political Proposal: Making Mobility Meaningful to People!
The political proposals made by REBALANCE are:
- We propose to go beyond the notion of useful and sustainable transport services, towards meaningful mobility for people.
- We support land-use and time-sensitive policies aiming to reduce the need for forced and compulsory mobility.
- We welcome the promotion of more Active Mobility.
- We stand for Mobility Justice: mobility impacts on groups, classes and sectors differently.
- We propose that appraisal methods used to assess transport policies are no longer predominantly based on time savings.
- We encourage policies that aim to shift from the current approach based on making traffic flows more efficient towards an approach based on moving people and goods more sustainably.
- We welcome the adoption of Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans not intending to provide as much mobility as possible but to improve the city as a whole, balancing traffic flows and places.
- We support the “Vision Zero” policy that aims to eliminate road fatalities and injuries to zero.
While revolutionising the current paradigm is urgent, it could lead to a complete impasse in the political dialogue and lead to arguments of utopianism. The project therefore opted to express the results through a Manifesto reflecting the critical review of the current mobility paradigm, the vision of a more sustainable path and the roadmap for a new transport paradigm. The aim is to stimulate European politicians to adopt concrete legal and political measures while moving the wider European communities towards a radical in mobility.
REBALANCE proposal for a new culture that better meets the expectations and inherent values of the European population while addressing the environmental, energy, social and economic challenges it may face should not be seen as an abstract utopia: the project laid out a Policy Roadmap and related Policy Guidance which proposes practical, immediately applicable policy measures for the development of future transport infrastructure-related policies and investment on a European scale. Guidance covers assessment methods and notably recommends improvements of the cost-benefit analysis commonly used in transport project assessment.
For the results achieved, REBALANCE has drawn on high-level thinkers beyond the traditional stakeholder community of the transport sector from Europe and beyond who are known for their outstanding and original contributions to the advancement of global thought. This high-level group has supported the REBALANCE team in establishing general questions and working hypotheses to shape the European mobility culture of the future, based on European values and concepts that are deemed relevant but hardly considered today. Their participation has provided fresh ideas and diversity of opinion, not yet influenced by previous debates that have flourished over the years in the field of transport research.
The expectation is that the widest possible dissemination of the manifesto through the network of thinkers, experts, scientists, and mobility practitioners that REBALANCE has created over the years can actually lead to the establishment of a movement and a consolidated venue that reach people and communities not necessarily related to science or research on sustainable mobility and that becomes strong enough to push the top decision makers and make the change happen.