How bad urban design is preventing us from riding the future.

It’s 2017 and we don’t see any of the futuristic mobility devices like hoverboards we were promised!

While we don’t have the gravity defying hoverboards of Back to the Future, would you believe that our transportation options have never been more interesting, diverse, and fun?

No? We don’t blame you. That’s because looking at the typical city street today, you wouldn’t know it. However, in our research we found dozens of fantastic non-car mobility options. From electric one wheeled people movers, to road carving boards, to sweat/effort free e-bikes, humanity, we discovered, isn’t lacking in creative solutions for going places!

The Onewheel for example is waaaay more nimble and capable than Marty’s hoverboard, both on and off-road!

Electric uniwheels like the Segway One S1 let you glide around while having enormous fun!

So why aren’t we all zipping past traffic on awesome wheels and giving the middle finger to our gas and insurance bills?

MOBILITY DIVERSIFICATION WOES

For the last half of the 20th century, the car has dominated many developed cities. Over the past decade or so, we’ve begun trying to redesign our streets for transportation diversification.

However, our approach hasn’t seemed to help much. Why?

Each mode of transportation has its pros and cons. Electric wheels like hoverboards and uniwheels are fun, zippy, and inexpensive, but they require safe places to ride. Cars are comfortable and convenient, yet prone to traffic, expensive, inefficient, and polluting. Walking is pleasant, but slow and prone to weather. Biking is healthy, yet tiring. Public transportation doesn’t usually crash and is hands free, but is slow and often underfunded.

But our current approach to mobility diversification essentially eliminates most of the benefits of each type of transportation while keeping the most of the downsides. The reason for this is in their attempts to diversify, cities have typically tried to retrofit automobile-centric streets with other modes and have created hybrid streets: adding bus stops, bike lanes, wider sidewalks, carpool lanes, etc. As well-intentioned as these efforts are, this approach of trying to accommodate all modes of transport on the same street has created a worst-of-all-worlds situation.

Each of these modes are very different. They have different speeds, different sized vehicles, different safety requirements, different noise levels, etc. In trying to accommodating all modes, cities end up with streets that are terrible for all modes. Here are the issues they’ve run into:

  • Bikes have to try to squeeze between distracted drivers on their left, flying doors on their right, and unpleasant traffic noise and tailpipe fumes all around.
  • Motorcycles swerve in and out of cars causing road rage and unsafe conditions for riders and drivers.
  • Buses get stuck in car traffic, rightfully giving public transportation its bad reputation
  • Drivers becomes totally frustrated with this new obstacle course and end up lobbing against all these new measures, making transportation diversification almost impossible and maintaining the status quo.

In trying to diversify streets, have more transportation choices, and gain from the benefits of each type of transportation, cities are inadvertently making transportation more difficult, more dangerous, slower, and more frustrating for all: drivers, riders, cyclers, and walkers by trying to accommodate many modes on the same streets.

So reason you don’t see hoverboards, electric uniwheels, e-bikes or the dozens of futuristic wheels in most cities lies in antiquated urban planning efforts, not a lack of technology or mobility options!