New urban transport ‘solutions’ continue to appear thick and fast. Supposedly revolutionary, all of them are strangely familiar to that failed mode of urban transport, the private motor vehicle; or at least some kind of ugly hybrid between it and a personal mobility scooter.
I wrote last year about the Toyota ‘i-Unit’ and GM’s ‘EN-V’, both very silly forms of transport. The latest arrivals – which unlike Toyota and GM’s creations are more explicitly car-like – include the $12,5000 ‘Hiriko’ –
and Renault’s ‘Twizy’ –
What these vehicles have in common is an assertion that they are ‘green’ – because they are electric – and that they will make congestion, and the hassle of driving in city centres, a thing of the past. Renault say –
Ideal for around the city, Renault Twizy always finds a way through the traffic!
And the Hiriko is
designed to give city dwellers the freedom of individual transport, without the stress of tailbacks and endless searches for parking spaces.
It’s not clear to me how these vehicles, which essentially amount to cars – albeit small ones – can avoid tailbacks, or find a way through them. I have yet to see a Smart car managing to extricate itself from a queue of motor vehicles – at least, not legally. These vehicles will be stuck in queues, just like every other car, despite being snazzy, small and electric.
The Hiriko does have the minor advantage of folding up slightly so you can just about squeeze three of them into one parking space, but this is hardly a ‘revolution’. The sad truth is that we shouldn’t be endlessly re-hashing and re-branding a mode of transport that has had, and will continue to have, extraordinarily deleterious effects upon the urban realm, and should concentrate instead on proven modes of urban transport that, while not as technologically exciting, are proven to work. Namely, walking, cycling, trams and buses.
As I wrote last year, we already have a ‘vehicle’ that allows face-to-face interaction, can travel at speeds of up to 20 mph, is compact, energy-efficient, allows your children to go to school independently, can negotiate with pedestrians, and is a fraction of the cost of these stupendously over-engineered and technology-crammed devices. The bicycle.
It’s fun too.