A couple of articles have caught my attention around the remaking of cities once we all come to grips with the simple fact that most cities around the world were designed to accommodate moving vehicles over pedestrians. Now with people realizing that scooters and bikes are an option – the startup community has rapidly built a few services that fill the need. Problem is the demand is there but the roads and sidewalks don’t accommodate the traffic. PMDs are mixing with people walking and in general bicycles are always on the roads at the mercy of the cars around them.
This article today sums up how I feel about the scooters – let’s fix the streets to accommodate them. Long but good article but I like this part:
Scooter companies have drawn their share of ire, of course, which is why cities want to cap their numbers in an effort to control them. But there’s a better fix than limiting new options. If cities gave people more safe spaces to ride and park all modes of non-car transportation, both fans and critics would be happier. Imagine if, along with its scooter regulations, San Francisco announced a pilot program to expand Market Street’s 10-mph zone into a citywide, multimodal network, to be completed by the end of the summer?
That may sound impossible, but it could happen about this quickly. Seville, Spain—a city almost identical in size to San Francisco—built out a comprehensive “lightning” bike-lane network in just 18 months. The number of people commuting by bike daily increased tenfold in about four years. How did it work? The city carved out space from existing roadways—and eliminated 5,000 places to park cars.
Which leads me to this article about parking. We all know that since everything was designed around cars than of course there would be parking lots everywhere which won’t be needed once we get rid of most of the cars.
There are about 500 million parking spaces in America for our 326 million citizens. Parking infrastructure occupies over 3.5 million square miles, an area larger than Delaware and Rhode Island combined. And yet, despite our sea of parking garages and lots, visions of a car-less future are gaining momentum. This may be inconceivable for adults who have spent a sizable chunk of their lives behind the wheel, searching for that perfect spot. But if car ownership does indeed drop, parking structures would be cast into the same graveyard as fax machines and video cassettes–or would they?
As an architect who has studied and participated in 15 years’ worth of urban development projects at Arcturis, my hunch is that our cultural shift to ride sharing, autonomous vehicles, and alternative transportation will result in a permanent paradigm shift in urban planning.
That last part brings me to the crux of my thinking when it comes to wearing my VC hat. It will take time and some countries will move faster than others but the core of a city that we know today will dramatically change. My personal view is people will go to malls less and continue to up their spend online. Which means people will only go to seek brands or entertainment options which means overall retail space will reduce.
Couple this with people using scooters, bikes, autonomous buses and maybe, just maybe, walking more will mean that the city center will be able to get rid of some of the road space. All of this will effect how people shop, move and spend money which means this entire remaking of the city center will provide huge opportunities as well as create new havoc around employment.
Singapore is setting a pretty good example for what the new Jurong might look like – https://www.jld.sg/Draft-Master-Plan/A-New-Paradigm-For-Mobility
As a VC we constantly try to peer a bit into the future and decide on what themes might be if interest for us to invest in today.
For me the coming change in cities will be a big one.