Why do people try to keep reinventing the wheel when it comes to the issue of future modes of trasportation? Its not big and its not clever. I doubt that making ever shinier versions of the electric or hybrid car is never going to offset the melting of the ice caps.
Since the advent of green issues in consumer society, electric vehicles have always been subject to ridicule in the shadow of their fosil fuel counterparts, in spite of their commercial success or failure, from the GWiz to the C5. Yet, contemporary big name designers including Tom Dixon and Marc Newson continue to contribute to the morphed assortment of stylised boxes on wheels branded as the future of transport design. Electric cars might have in fact already had their hay day back in 1912 when they outsold petrol models in America for all the same reasons as we sing their praises today (except CO2 emissions): quiet, smooth ride, no gear shift, no unpleasant smells.
Perhaps then it is time to think outside the box. Literally. Transport design has never been product design issue; it is a challenge that requires creative thinking and an understanding of the scale and context of the people and places involved. The London Underground opened in 1863, born before the Ford Model T, still expanding and evolving today and will arguably outlive the motorcar altogether. Thankfully there are some pragmatic and enlightened thinkers out there who are up to speed. One inspired project by Exploration Architecture is illustrated by the Carfree London Overground Map (above), which proposes to pedestrianise and link up all of London’s parks and open spaces with with greenways and cycle routes. There are also some radical ideas to get you on your bike, including cycle stations and fan-assisted cycle tubes which provide shelter from the rain, protection from traffic and tail winds of up to 10mph.
I don’t believe that cars belong in cities. With more than half the world’s population now in urban areas, I think they are a totally inappropriate mode of transport for such a dense concentration of people and services.
Architect Michael Pawlyn, of Exploration Architecture, is one of the most optimistic, convincing and intelligent speakers I have heard talk about a real future for our civilization on this planet, with ideas and solutions to match. Listen to him here.