In the year 2008, I started high school in the city centre of Antwerp which meant going to school by train from Kapellen. It was quite an adjustment for me since, before, I had always gone to school by bike.
My new route consisted of half an hour train ride followed by a 15min walk. Everyday me and my brother desperately hoped that the train was delayed or cancelled so that we would miss the first minutes of the dreadful history, geography or math class. Luckily for us, as you all know, the public transportation in Belgium is not great so this happened quite a lot.
This year the city of Antwerp announced that it would launch a fixed station bike platform called Velo. It was the first time such an initiative was launched in Antwerp and, as you might remember, it was a hot topic. Everyone wanted to get a membership card, there was even a waiting list.
When I finally got my hand on one a couple of years later, I noticed that the bike platform was like a game of Russian roulette. Sometimes you got a bike with a loose steer, sometimes the chain fell off, sometimes a pedal was missing and once in a while, if you were really lucky, you got a bike that worked perfectly.
In 2018, I studied in Brussels and lived with friends. This year was the first year I truly came into contact with all the sharing platforms that started to rise up. We were big fans of using Scooty to go to class and Uber to go out on the weekends. We even became quite lazy, a 15min walk turned into a 2min Scooty ride and a trip to the grocery store turned into a Deliveroo order.
However, after seeing the bill at the end of the month, we had the reality check that these services were unfortunately not free. All those ‘quick’ €4, €5 and €10 bills counted up to a pretty huge amount. Needless to say that the downgrade back to walking and public transport followed quite quickly.
In the current mobility landscape, it feels like possibilities are endless. Poppy, Lime, Bird, Scooty, Cloudbike, Uber… are just a few examples of the mobility solutions that can be used today. Personally, I also managed to get a better balance between walking, public transport and the use of these services.
Everything goes so fast and seems within reach, to think that just a couple of years ago people were going crazy over Velo…
«These special times force us to find alternatives and to rethink mobility as we know it.»Marie-Line Dhooge, Management Trainee
And yet today, we are all forced to slow down
Due to the COVID19 virus, streets are empty, no more traffic, no more overcrowded trains, no more complaints about delays and no more rushing. People work from home, spend more time with their families, go out for walks and connect with friends by skype. The cohesion in the closed environment is getting stronger.
All of this leads me to the question: How much and which mobility is really necessary?
In my opinion, a good mobility offering can add a lot of value to our lives. It allows us to maintain social contacts, to gain time and it makes everything more accessible. However, we also have to be able to take a step back and be more conscious about our mobility.
Do we need to go abroad for a meeting or can we set up a video call?
Do we have to take the scooter to the store, or do we have the time to walk?
These special times force us to find alternatives and to rethink mobility as we know it.
How will we live mobility in the future?
The future of mobility concerns me not only because of the current situation, but also in my role as a trainee in the new Mobility Unit of Baloise. How will we move in the future? And what role can we as Baloise play in this mobility landscape of the future? In the Mobility Project, our unit has worked over the past few months to understand this future mobility and to develop solutions that meet the needs of tomorrow's customers. When the trend study was prepared a few months ago, jokes were made about whether there will still be mobility in the professional context in the future. Digital solutions, virtual rooms, all of this makes it unnecessary to move out of your own four walls for the job. And now that's a reality! Forever? - No, hopefully not, but a big change is being initiated. Will we only be on the road for our private needs in the future? Then how do we move? Environmental awareness is growing strongly, but do we want to sit shoulder to shoulder in a bus with other people in times of Corona? Forecasting is difficult, but opportunities are opening up for completely new solutions.
The future seems more uncertain than before
The development in China after the big corona wave gives us a few clues as to how mobility could change. This shows that individual mobility has increased significantly. Closeness to others is avoided more. Public transport is losing users, the bike is being taken and the bike and e-scooter sharing services are experiencing a boom. Services like UBER are currently having a hard time, but there are solutions where I can use a car and the driver is in greater demand than ever. All topics that are also of great concern to our Mobility @ Baloise team.