Previous choices make for difficult decisions today

One of the changes we’re seeing in towns and cities is the slow embracing of shared micromobility services. We see rent-a-bike services in London, Paris and elsewhere. This is being slowly converted to electric bikes where feasible and more adapted. We’re seeing, in California of course, a big battle for scooter superiority.

In all these places, cities have space to accommodate them, either by design decisions taken during construction — think modern cities in the U.S. —, or by chance and retro-planning in the cases of London and Paris for example.

Recently walking through a large city in the Caribbean, Fort-de-France, with around 100000 inhabitants, it struck me that setting up these services would be very difficult. Not impossible, but an order of magnitude more difficult than in, say Paris. Of course, mass plays a big part in that decision, if you don’t have enough critical mass, no scheme is going to be profitable. Culture is another aspect. People just don’t seem to use bikes to get around. It’s cars, lifts and taxi-buses (taxi collective in the F.W.I).

But the most difficult problem I see is the infrastructure. There are bad roads, bad pavements (where you find a pavement) and little to no space available to build bike/scooter parking stations. I don’t know about the transport laws (that’s something I’ll be researching) to have an opinion if its another factor in making it difficult. Fort-de-France recently started operating a bus-tram hybrid system but the centre of town has hardly any stations, they’re all pushed the periphery. Admittedly, it’s not a long walk to the center, but it’s not on the doorstep as it were. The out of town parking is additionally inadequate, as a simple visit to the car park will show you how they are overflowing, un-incentivising people to take public transport.

11 February 2019, F.W.I