The mobility revolution will fail without accessibility

The discourse on the public transport revolution is characterised by a fatal misunderstanding: it is always about the fit middle-aged who can easily switch between car sharing, private cars, bicycles and public transport. They do exist, but they are in the minority. The majority have little to no choice for their preferred means of transport because they live in the countryside or have no money. Many older people cannot physically use an e-scooter or a bicycle. Many people with walking disabilities cannot use buses and trains. They cannot get into the vehicle because they cannot climb steps. Or they have to fear not finding a seat. A 30-year-old can easily stand or sit on the floor for an hour, but a 70-year-old does not have the mobility or energy for that.

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Multiple Discrimination

Then there are the mobility impaired. Wheelchair users are pushed out of the metropolis because of non-accessible flats or expensive rents - they need larger flats. They end up, if they are lucky, on the outskirts of the big city or in the countryside. They usually have no alternative to a private vehicle because the promised accessibility of public transport has remained theory. Visually impaired and blind people do not have this choice at all. For them, this means: no public transport = no mobility.

Lack of Alternatives

There is a great intersection between disabled and elderly people and financial poverty. Certainly, none of us has to go hungry, but there is no blanket financial compensation for disability except for the blind. The inflation of energy, public transport, rents and so on hits all the harder. Many forms of assistance are designed to provide tax relief, but this does not help those who pay little or no income tax. Less money usually means fewer opportunities for mobility.

Disabled are ignored

My impression is that the media and politicians are trapped in a make-you-wish land. All you hear is bicycle here, Tesla there. The bicycle is unsuitable as described above and the Tesla is an expensive hipster toy.

The problems have been known for decades. The solutions, too, by the way: the purchase of vehicles suitable for the disabled, improved frequency for the country, possibly also wheelchair-accessible call-sharing taxis, accessible redesign of the entire infrastructure, enough seats, safe vehicles especially for the elderly and women, and so on. There may also be suitable alternatives to e-scooters and rental bikes for older people, but I don't know enough about that. I am thinking, for example, of electric mobiles analogous to the motorised rickshaws that are common in South Asia.

The Politics is not interested

Unfortunately, this will not happen, as we have had car ministers instead of public transport ministers in recent years and decades. One was just incompetent, the other actively blocked the transport turnaround. In fact, we can't expect any initiative from the FDP in the current government; apart from rejecting other people's ideas, this party obviously can't or want to do anything.

In my opinion, this is indeed a violation of civil and human rights. Lack of accessibility restricts freedom: The freedom to be on the move, to use the various offers, the freedom of choice - because one can only use the accessible options.

Unfortunately, the problem described above - people in charge optimise structures and processes for themselves - is symptomatic of our society. This may work in societies with a predominantly young population. But none of the western states are among them. Not only the mobility revolution, but also many other major issues such as digitalisation will fail because of this challenge, or at least be slowed down. The fact that we are running into these problems with our eyes wide open is ignorant. After all, there are tools like design thinking that are supposed to combat these problems precisely for this purpose.

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