Voi’s Chief Operating Officer and co-founder presents a vision of 15-minute cities to Web Summit

Nov 5, 2021

Voi’s mission has always been about shaping city life for the better and this week we took our campaign to champion 15-minute cities to the stage of one of the biggest tech conferences in the world.

Speaking at Web Summit in Lisbon – an event attended by more than 40,000 people – Voi’s COO and co-founder Douglas Stark presented our ambitious, yet highly achievable, vision of the 15-minute city connected by micromobility – in the form of e-bikes and e-scooters.

The 15-minute city is a new paradigm for urban development. It represents the idea that we can shape towns and cities where everything we need is just a 15-minute cycle, public transport trip, e-scooter ride or walk away. It was first proposed by French scientist Carlos Moreno in 2019 and we were honoured to present Moreno’s groundbreaking ideas, alongside how we at Voi are working towards making it a reality, at the event in the Portuguese capital.

The 15-minute city

More than half the entire global population live in cities, yet the cities themselves take up just 3% of the world’s total land. Experts predict that, by 2030, there will be 43 so-called “mega cities” which will each be home to more than 10 million inhabitants each. By 2050, 68% of the world’s population will live in cities, according to the UN. With the world on track to have more than 10 billion inhabitants by 2100, the future of our planet depends on more people living in cities.

Cities are already efficient. The average New Yorker consumes 74% less water, uses 35% less electricity and produces 45% less garbage per person when compared with the average American.

But cities must become even more efficient still. Motorised transport infrastructure, such as roads and car parking, takes up way too much valuable urban space. Not only does this mean that we have to put up with noise, pollution and poor quality of life, most European cities also have a serious congestion issue which is only set to get worse as the urban population grows. The traditional approach to reduce congestion has mainly been to provide additional road space for cars. However, there is a growing body of evidence that this approach is no longer appropriate and that it actually increases congestion problems.

We don’t need to put up with this. We can live in an efficient city with quality of life without the need for cars – a 15-minute city.

In a 15-minute city, everything that people need, from housing to healthcare, social life to shopping, would be within 15 minutes’ reach. Concrete jungles would be replaced by parks; pollution-filled air would be cleared; and our children would discover vast and rich biodiversity on their doorstops.

We’ve been reimagining how streets and lanes across Europe could look if authorities all committed to this movement. We have even created new visions of how Hornstull in Stockholm, Sweden and Lark Lane in Liverpool, England could look without cars. By reclaiming roads and parking spaces from private cars, and creating the infrastructure needed for shared micromobility and public transport, entire cities could be transformed.

This is more than just a pipe dream. The 15-minute city concept is already becoming a reality in Paris, for example, where Mayor Anne Hidalgo is transforming the Champs-Élysées from an eight-lane highway, along which 3,000 cars pass daily, into a haven for pedestrians, green spaces and tunnels of trees.

Lark Lane in Liverpool re-imagined by Voi and Jaja Architects with the 15-Minute City concept in mind.

Transforming Europe

As the first European e-scooter operator to launch in Europe and, as the leading operator with the highest market share of town and city contracts, we are uniquely placed to see just how powerful micromobility can be at transforming city life. Even in a relatively short period of time.

Voi has already replaced an estimated 11 million car trips in Europe since 2020, where e-scooter trips and e-scooters can play a huge role in accelerating the growth of the 15-minute city. Shared e-scooters and e-bikes allow people to easily access public transport and travel even further, without a private car.

We are an innovative transport company but also a tech company and in actively working towards a vision of 15-minute cities we are putting safe, sustainable transport at the heart of our efforts. We are developing cutting edge technologies including hardware and software; machine learning; computer vision to increase safety and sustainable integration ; and the Internet of Things and Edge computing.

In three years, we’ve gone from nothing to enabling over one million Voi rides on a weekly basis across more than 70 cities in Europe. Micromobility also played a key role in helping cities and towns recover from the pandemic, by empowering people to move around their city safely. And city dwellers have most definitely embraced our sustainable and efficient mode of transport, with the number of rides surpassing two million a week during the peak summer months.

Just think what could be achieved, and just how transformative shared mobility could be, if the 15-minute city could become a reality.

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