When it comes to mobility, we are rarely on our own! As John Stuart Mill once said: “One man’s freedom ends where another’s begins.” Any action or decision taken by a user in a public place is bound to have an impact on other people. Whether it’s the way we drive, how we get about, the times at which we travel, the route we choose or something else, all these decisions have consequences which can benefit other users or make their lives more difficult.
But it’s hard to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and no easy task to be aware of the effects that our decisions have on others. This often leads to misunderstandings and tension. For example, it’s difficult to answer the following questions:
- If I am not allowed to drive or ride down a particular street (which is very inconvenient for me), how does that ease traffic flow more generally?
- How does a speed restriction on a section of road (which slows me down) make the residents living on that road safer and less bothered by traffic noise?
So, how can we help people realise what other people are going through? How do we show them what it’s like and help them understand what others have to put up with every day?
To try and meet this challenge, the Canton of Valais’ Service de la Mobilité is keen to raise awareness among the population – and in particular users of motor vehicles such as car drivers and e-bike users – of these various issues. How can we enable road users to put themselves in the place of residents or other road users to help them better understand the inconveniences they have to put up with every day? The objective is to encourage better acceptance of the proposed limitations and, in the long term, a positive change in behaviour.
There are a number of possible specific applications. Without attempting to be exhaustive or to narrow the subject, this could include the following issues:
- The sound pollution caused by motor vehicles is a real problem. According to the European Union’s CORDIS project, exposure to the noise generated by road traffic can impact the health of local residents in a number of ways, through both an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and – more surprisingly – a greater risk of diabetes and even some cancers (colon and breast cancer). For every 10 dB increase in the noise generated by road and rail traffic, the risk of developing diabetes grows by 11%. Increasing numbers of residents are complaining to the authorities about this, including to the Canton of Valais’ Service de la Mobilité. One possible solution would be to enable different road users to find out for themselves by listening to the sound pollution caused by engine noise on street X at 10am and 9pm, or to listen to the noise generated at 50 km/h and then play a recording of the noise generated at 30 km/h and compare the negative effects the two have.
- Another example relates to road infrastructure planning, which results from weighing up the interests of all parties and creating simulations designed to show how the different users will be impacted. These simulations are carried out by specialists and are hard for the average user to understand. One solution would be a platform that communicates this information to the public in a fun and/or immersive way, enabling them to compare the different scenarios and understand why and how different development options were adopted or discounted. The idea would be to enable citizens to gain a thorough understanding of the impact of choice A or choice B on their own use of the public space and their consequences for the community.
Where possible, the solutions proposed should be generally applicable so that they can be adopted in different places and to tackle specific problems.
Desired innovation focus:
- Raising awareness among users and driving a change in behaviour
- A freely available tool
- Scenarios of different variations