Low-traffic zones and bicycle sharing

Written by  Femke Kools Wednesday, 21 May 2003 00:00

Economist studies experiments with sustainable transport

The present transport system on the basis of individual use of cars and freight traffic is not exactly ecological and leads to a lot of nuisance and victims. In Europe, in the last years, there has been an interest in alternatives, and there are experiments with sustainable transport. However, these experiments often remain tentative and the initiatives do not lead to structural changes. The Maastricht economist René Kemp investigated, in cooperation with colleagues from Universiteit Twente, how this can be improved.

The research consisted of an analysis of thirteen experiments with sustainable transport in Europe, such as organized bicycle-sharing (users don't own a bicycle themselves, but they can borrow one with a sort of chip card), electronic access systems to low-traffic zones and the transport of trucks on trains. As a result of this research, the scientists came up with a series of guidelines for the set-up of such experiments. There should, for example, be more attention for the social conditions that are necessary for the implementation of a new technology. Kemp: "Now, very often the focus is completely on the new technology, but, of course, that doesn't get you there. How the user's behaviour can be changed, is, for example, a very important question when you really want to change something. You can do that by involving users in the introduction of other systems. That happens now, but still too much ad hoc." Furthermore, governments have an important task, according to Kemp. "They can create situations where it becomes attractive for people to make use of the new means of transport. Except for the introduction of taxes and discounts, I also think of better harmonization of types of transport."

Soon the researchers can experience themselves whether experiments that follow their guidelines lead to better results. They are going to work on a number of user experiments, completely set-up according to their own theory.

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