The mobility needs of the intended visitors to a facility and/or location are too often the framework rather than the determining factor. As mobility consultants, we often come to the table with a municipality when a number of important choices have already been made. For example, municipalities in rural areas regularly choose to cluster facilities, for economic reasons. However, the changes to mobility needs, as a result of their relocation, are sometimes overlooked.
Mobility question not known
Consider the increase in need for socially supported transport to the elderly and vulnerable users to these new locations. In my work I have come across care homes established in strange places; locations where people are too far away from their daily groceries, the doctor, or the library. With this kind of planning, we take away a bit of autonomy for these individuals and drive up the transportation costs as a result.
This is often because we do not know enough about the potential visitors and their mobility needs. They are not heard when developing new locations or are not at the table when designing infrastructure. We assume that certain treatments are acceptable, while sometimes missing the appropriate connection with the initial need.
Good example: Goeiestoepkesroute
There are also places where I see beautiful examples of what works. I recently heard about the Goeiestoepkesroute (literally translated as ‘Good Pavements Route’) in the municipality of Drimmelen, NL. There, together with local residents and organizations, the municipality designated the important walking routes and improved them. For example, the most important destinations in the village are now within walking distance via barrier-free and easily accessible footpaths.
For a recent project, we conducted research into the mobility needs of future residents for a new development location in the Rotterdam region. This provided insight into realistic opportunities and possibilities to reduce the car ownership of the future residents, and to work with a lower parking standard on this basis. With the help of our research, we developed various scenarios with associated mobility offerings that are tailored to the actual needs of future residents.
Coming to the table early
By having an earlier picture of the mobility needs when moving or removing a facility, it is possible to decide more accurately when it is worth it to move or remove a facility. As mobility consultants, we need to get to the table as early as possible on spatial developments. Are mergers or closures of primary schools, supermarkets, general practitioners, sports clubs, and so on planned? Before those plans become actions, take the time to find out who is using the facilities and how they can still access an alternative facility nearby and/or by a simple transport solution. In this way we do not provide band aid solutions, instead preventing the unnecessary wound to begin with.
This blog was originally posted on the Verkeerskunde on April 26, 2022: https://www.verkeerskunde.nl/blog/vraag-eerst-de-bewoners-naar-hun-mobiliteitsbehoeften