Can other cities copy Paris’s war on cars?

Segway says goodbye to the PT, NY says yes to scooters, and CA says no to dirty trucks.

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What you need to know this week

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo won a resounding reelection victory this weekend, granting her a mandate to expand her crusade against private cars. For her second term, the environmentalist leader has vowed to eliminate most street parking and reduce the speed limit to 30 kilometers-per-hour (18.6 mph) in the city center; she’s also promised to make temporary cycleways and pedestrianized streets that were built during the pandemic permanent. As cities emerge from lockdown, mayors all over world are looking for politically popular ways to reduce congestion, and many see Paris as a possible model. But replicating Hidalgo’s success may not be so easy. From the New Statesman:

Hidalgo is certainly ambitious, but she owes her re-election to a shrewd political calculation. She is elected solely by the two million residents of Paris proper, rather than the metropolitan area ringing the capital, home to between seven million and 13 million souls, depending on how you count. Her position, as the leader of the dense urban core of a larger metropolitan area, has allowed her to be bolder in confronting the private car than administrations elected in conurbations whose electorates stretch out to the suburbs, where voters are more likely to own cars. For instance, in London, about 54 per cent of households own at least one car, largely because of outer London boroughs such as Hillingdon, where three quarters are car owners. In Paris, the figure is 34 per cent.

Paris’s anti-car electorate isn’t a total anomaly, though. Hidalgo’s reelection was part of a “green wave” in France that saw eco-conscious politicians rise to power in municipalities from Lyon to Bordeaux. Time will tell if the rest of France can Copenhagenize as effectively as Paris.

  • California regulators approved a first-of-its-kind rule that will require 40% of tractor trailers, 55% of light trucks, and 75% of delivery trucks and vans sold in the state to be zero-emission by 2035. Freight is a major source of transport emissions, so electrifying trucking is key to fighting climate change.

  • People are buying bikes in record numbers, but will they stick with cycling after the pandemic is over? Some signs say yes. “[A]ccording to a weekly PeopleForBikes survey of 932 U.S. adults, 9% of American adults say they rode a bike for the first time in a year, because of the pandemic. And a majority of those riders say they will continue riding after shelter-in-place orders are removed.”

  • Rad Power Bikes, the largest e-bike company in the US, has launched its cheapest model yet, the sub-$1,000 Radmission. With this entry-level city commuter, Rad is aiming to attract a younger mix of casual riders who are avoiding public transport over coronavirus anxiety.

  • Amazon acquired self-driving startup Zoox for over $1.2 billion.

  • Hangzhou shows how bike-share could be done. The Chinese city of 10 million has a fleet of 119,000 semi-dockless bikes, each of which is used about 4 times a day. Thanks to an ad-based model, the bikes are free for people to rent for the first hour. About 96% of users never pay anything.

  • Some 560,000 bicycles have been sold in Italy since the country’s lockdown ended in early May. And thanks to a new government subsidy, e-bike sales are experiencing particularly strong growth. 

  • After years of debate, NYC finally approved a dockless scooter and e-bike pilot last Thursday. The catch? It won’t start until next March.

  • Segway will cease production of its original two-wheeled, self-balancing personal transport device next month after almost 20 years. Mall cop jokes aside, the PT was a groundbreaking work of engineering that prefigured the present-day popularity of LEVs. It failed to catch on primarily due to its high price point and unintuitive form factor. Because ridership never reached critical mass, norms and infrastructure were never developed, which further hindered adoption. Lime president Joe Kraus spoke more about why the original Segway failed last year at Micromobility Europe. All we have to say for now is farewell, sweet prince.

  • Lime is attempting to convert its one million users into one million safe streets advocates through its Lime Action program.

  • Indian micromobility provider Bounce let go of 23% of its workforce, or about 130 employees, in its second wave of layoffs this year.

  • Tier hired two former Uber execs to spearhead its UK e-scooter expansion.

  • Grin launched monthly scooter rentals in Latin America last month.

  • The average trip duration for London’s Santander’s Cycles was more than twice as long (!) this May as it was last year, suggesting many people are replacing transit trips with bike trips due to COVID-19.


Our next guest is…

Since COVID-19 forced the world to drastically cut back on travel, global carbon emissions have nosedived. But experts warn this unprecedented decline in CO2 output is unlikely to last long.

Barring major social, economic, and political action, as countries reopen, road transport activity is expected to come roaring back—and, along with it, carbon pollution. From China to California, there are troubling signs traffic is already returning with a vengeance.

Join us this Thursday for the latest edition of webinar: Can We Avoid a Carbon Comeback Post-COVID? Our special guests will be Amy Harder, climate and energy reporter at Axios, and Nathaniel Bullard, chief content officer at BloombergNEF. Together, we will explore what steps the public and private sectors can take to permanently reduce transport emissions following the COVID-19 reset.

Become a member (free for 30 days) to gain access to this and all future webinars.

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Pod people

On the latest episode of the podcast, Oliver Bruce and Horace Dediu discuss what the #WWDC announcements mean for mobility and why the legacy of the Segway PT is bigger than Paul Blart.

Listen here


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