The car industry had a bumper year in 2016, but a much slower one in 2017 as families put off big ticket purchases in favour of day to day spending. As we remove private cars from our cities and replace them with new ways of getting about, the consequences for cities like London will be profound. Will private cars be replaced by Uber and leased vehicles as has recently been suggested by Porsche? Will ride sharing stay viable as mass transit? Will delivery vans replace private cars and cause our streets to be just as busy?
We all need reliable ways to move around London. Cars, Uber and Cabs all move at walking pace for much of the day and so walking is a more attractive option if you can and the weather allows. The tube is quick, efficient and fairly cheap but it reaches capacity at peak times and can be unbearable in warm weather. Buses get stuck in the same traffic as cars, and their advantage in Bus lanes is offset by frequent stops. Personal electric boards, wheels and bikes offer niche alternatives but don’t look to be a mainstream solution.
As we remove private cars from the streets and replace them with a mixture of pedestrians, cyclists, cabs, ride sharing, electric vehicles and delivery vans we will need new and smarter road infrastructure to support this complex mixture of traffic. We also need to reuse all those public and private carparks that underlie so many buildings in central London, and play host to a huge number of empty bays waiting to be re-used.
As the planning system in central London reacts to greater demands for space we cannot keep building another storey on top of London. Certain, very specific locations will accommodate density in new buildings, but we should look to the great unused underlayer for the next development cycle. Watch this (parking) space.