Mobility and access is a complex field of work, and it is usually viewed through various disciplines. An economic conversation, lacks a sociological angle– an engineering conversation might not reflect the geographic side; while a systems conversation might not accout for the labour dynamics. Non-motorised transport is a rather complex mode of transport, given that it is the physiological basis for movement between locations within one’s household and beyond. It is the direct contact point between people and places– yet it tends to recieve the least attention, from a capital investment and spatial development perspective. One of the reasons could be because it is such a norm to walk on dust in some towns; while in others it is just okay to plan shopping precints in townships with a stronger focus on car-parking than public spaces. Pedestrian spaces, bikeways and child-friendly environments are crucial for local living and well-being.
Two important trends are going to inform the future of non-motorised transport industries. The first is the idea of durable, comfortable, living, street and sportswear. From torn-tattered apparel, to body-fitting comfort wear, there is a growing culture about day-to-day street wear with as many pockets as functions. In the active wear environment, layers of specific and specialised clothing design with unique applications of materials are emerging faster and with much deeper focus on more than brand but high quality wear and experiences. Consider the casualisation of bespoke wear, where tailored clothing is the norm, and it’s comfort is usually impeccable.
From durable shoes, that need no replacement, to active gear that could be worn multiple times with minimal odour, there is a deep narrative about making activity affordable in the long-run through reducing the need to replace. For African cities, the question could be how durable, comfortable and functional are school shoes for secondary school children who’s sizes might not change in the medium term?
Many of these children walk long-distances to school, and even where they don’t sometimes wearing a pair of poor quality shoes for the entire day may affect their physiology, changes in spinal alignment and walking habits/styles. This translates into a certain type of physique in the long-run which could take medical bills higher, and potentially make non-motorised mobility unattractive. The price differences between industrial school shoes and school footwear are nearly 2:1– which means the average household could buy two pairs of Toughees compared with one pair of Green Cross or Bronx school footwear. This argument can be extended to physically demanding industries from cleaning to construction industries: do our policies really touch the basic, tactile sensitivities of transport?
Second, is the health and wellness toward well-being enteprises and cultures being introduced lately. Wellnbess industries are most obviously the growth in gyms and fitness centres, but also the emergence of reward integrated technologies which track your movement and reward you for some reason. The industrial development potential underlying the wellness type industries range from dietary, chemical to industrial products and systems. While some companies have to encourage people who afford the devices to walk more— there are communities in which walking and cycling are the currencies of access and mobility.
The industrial potential is really between texture and space, project and execution, form and function. This requires a different type of policy sphere— where a walk a day truly pays off— and the industrial implications of manufacturing bicycles domestically is simply part and parcel of the mobility revolution. So while shared mobility is an excellent development; mobile applications are pretty cool; it is more important to focus on the prerequisites for deployment in Africa.
*Both of these trends are related to the economics of prevention: an invisible area of work in which there is no price attached to it because it’s just not in the market. This time more questions than answers.