● What does Uber know that the government doesn’t.

“During rush hour, it is very inefficient for a one-ton hulk of metal to take one person 10 blocks,” according Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi. As a result, Uber is planning to focus more on its electric scooter and bike business, and less on cars, even though it recognizes that this could hurt its profits in the short-term.

That’s right, the company that has made a mountains of money moving people around in cars now realizes that this may not be the best method of transportation in a variety of circumstances. Uber is looking to electric scooters and ebikes for a possible solution (because that’s the type of services it offers), but its logic applies equally to old fashion manually powered bicycles.

Does Uber really know what it’s talking about? It certainly has loads of experience driving people around cities, and it obviously knew what was needed to establish a highly successful ride sharing business around the world. It’s also interesting to note that on the stock market, Uber will have a greater evaluation than either General Motors or the Ford Motor Company.

Yup, it seems that Uber does know what it’s talking about when it says cars are not always the best method for moving people around a city. The question is: Do governments know this? If they do, you would think governments would initiate all sorts of policies to get people out of their cars, including spending significant amounts on developing cycling infrastructure.

Some people might argue that governments already know this and are spending money promoting cycling. Not really. When the Liberals were in power in Ontario they released the province’s new cycling strategy with great fanfare in 2014, but didn’t fund it for several years. When they did start spending on cycling, it was pocket change compared to the vast sums budgeted for road, highways, and motor vehicle infrastructure in general. And of course, the new Conservative government has recently cut out funding for cycling altogether.

Locally, some people might point to Mayor Jim Watson’s initiatives as an example of efforts to promote cycling in Ottawa. He has certainly done more for cycling than his predecessor, which was zero. However, cycling doesn’t seem to be a very high priority judging by how quickly the city kowtows to anyone who challenges bicycle infrastructure based on the loss of a few on-street parking spaces. Like the province, the amount the city does spend on cycling has to be considered pocket change. It seems that Ottawa still funds cycling from the perspective that it is a worthwhile endeavour, but not something that’s essential for transportation efficiency or the city’s well being.

So there you have it. A major player in the private sector has come out and said it – putting more cars on the road isn’t always the answer. Unfortunately, the public sector hasn’t quite figured it out yet.


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