The author’s children taking a ride in his cargo bike
By Ross Douglas, Founder & CEO of Autonomy
I live and work in Paris, the most densely populated city in the western world. Apartments go for €10 000 per square meter, and monthly office rentals go for around €30 per square meter. Mastercard‘s 2019 Destination Index puts Paris second behind Bangkok, with over 19 million annual visitors. As in all thriving cities, space is valuable here. Reducing the number of cars is one way to increase space.
A few years back, the city’s mayor, Anne Hidalgo, shut down parts of the highway that ran along the Right Bank of the Seine to create a park. It’s a joy to see joggers, cyclists and families with young children use the park for exercise, fun and even after work drinks.
It’s exciting being part of the post-car reality and contributing to it through my event Autonomy & The Urban Mobility Summit. Thanks to the services of some of the companies participating in Autonomy, I’m able to get around Paris easily, safely and cheaply. Here’s how I do it:
I cycle the 4kms from my home in the 9th arrondissement to my office in the 11th, using the bike specific mapping app GeoVelo. According to WIRED, Paris ranks as the eighth most bike-friendly city, up from 17th place in 2015. The €150 million investment in bike lanes has paid off, putting Paris in a top spot for a city of its size.
If it’s very hot I use Uber JUMP e-bikes or Smoove’s e-Velib‘ so I don’t arrive at meetings sweating. The JUMP bikes are free-floating and easy to locate with the app. The Velib’s are equally convenient given that 14 000 bikes are distributed across 1 200 stations. For distances under 3 or 4kms, I prefer the free-floating electric scooters supplied by Bird, Dott, Lime and Voi. Critics say scooters are replacing walking, but it’s the opposite with me. I’m encouraged to set out on a long walk knowing I can tap my phone and switch to scooter when needed.
If the weather is really bad, I join the other 4.5 million daily commuters on the RATP metro. But that’s a last resort given the joy of navigating Paris at street level: people, shops, bars and restaurants rolling by.
Should I need a car over the weekend I tap my Ubeeqo app, a Europecar initiative which gives me a car off the street for as little as €3.50 per hour. They even reserve your parking bay on return, a handy perk for time-pressed Parisians.
For longer trips I rely on SNCF’s high speed trains, the TGV which are built by the French Multinational, Alstom. The trains run in excess of 300kmh powered by EDF’s nuclear energy, which makes for an incredibly low carbon footprint. I avoid flying if I can and prefer longer cleaner train rides than shorter polluting flights. In my destination city, many of the same mobility services work so it’s tap and go once again.
A combination of political will, climate change concerns and digital convenience will make the post-car movement a reality. According to a recent article in the New York Times, car ownership in Paris has dropped from 60 percent of households in 2001, to 35 percent today.
What we’ve seen at Autonomy over the last four years is a massive political will to replace cars in cities with new mobility service and at the same time, an explosion of companies providing alternatives that are cheaper, quicker, safer and not at the expense of the planet.