About 150 people from all European countries are slowly trickling in around a big table, richly filled with colorful lunch options. Some have driven hours at night to catch a plane from their capital; others were a short train ride or even bike ride away. The diversity and mix of languages and cultures immediately creates a good vibe and lots of energy in the room.
We are at the kick off of EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK 2017. Since 2002 EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK has been a yearly campaign that has sought to influence mobility and urban transport issues, as well as improve the health and quality of life of citizens. The campaign gives citizens the chance to explore what the role of city streets really is, and to explore concrete solutions to tackle urban challenges, such as air pollution.
Most of the people are local campaigners; others work for municipalities that participate in the campaign or for the European commission. The theme of 2017 is clean, shared and intelligent mobility, with the slogan 'Sharing gets you further'. "Because by using shared forms of transport we can reduce our expenses and lower our carbon footprint. Best of all, we can meet new people and make our journey more sociable."
After some words of an European Commission official I get to warm up the audience with a key note about clean, intelligent and shared transport. I talk about the present trends of electrification, automation and sharing. And how, despite it's huge potential sharing gets the least attention when we talk about mobility of the future. We all agree that it's not about technology, but about us and how we decide to shape the future. The human dimension is winning momentum.
With some ideas on how to 'seduce' citizens to experience shared transportation we break up into workshops. In my workshop, we gather around a 'campfire' to share stories. Some of the campaigners have been on the challenge since 2002 and it's great to see the circles tapping into each others rich experiences. In the DARE TO SHARE part, participants share their biggest campaign #wow's and #oops' in short Twitter style statements. I learnt about car sharing tupperware parties, about webinars so successful that technology couldn't handle it, but also about great ideas that failed because no promotion or communications were supporting the ideas or about euroscepticism getting into the way of campaigning.
Next, we discuss, draw and write ideas and ingredients for this year's EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK from a perspective of a future we'd all like to live in. Many share their challenges of aligning all local administrations in a region to join forces. Some countries have tried a lot and some campaign actions have turned into fabulous permanent measures. Other countries have no experience or examples at home of shared mobility, live in a highly car dependent area and have no idea where to start.
Great ideas emerge, from ridesharing with the mayor and give your opinion about the city, to giving a voice to children, as they are uninhibited in their views and have a big influence on their families. Nobody knows what the future of transportation will bring us. It may well be teleportation instead of automation, who knows. But we sure should never stop dreaming and be on the driving seat to our desired!
By Ananda Groag