Building a Smart City

Connected thinking

Unity between key municipal departments needs to be the name of the game if any such project is set to truly improve the way residents interact with their cities. This, of course, is easier said than done. Each department of a locality tends to have its own way of tackling problems and enacting change, with individual systems and structures to be navigated. Frequently, these bureaucracies, which may be deeply entrenched, can act as an early roadblock for Smart City projects. The good news is that by clearing out these brakes and blocks in the process of creating a cross-departmental entity, a more effective apparatus for making important future decisions will automatically take shape, leading to efficiency improvements even before the technological assistance of the ‘Smart City’ vision is truly realised.

Many cities across the globe are already looking at how they can group various departments of public works together, rethinking how operations and strategy might intersect in future. Often, this might take the initial form of an overseeing ‘Smart City Department’, which will then report directly to the mayor or an appointed city manager. The job of this department is to oversee the innovation process. Their day-to-day responsibilities will involve consulting with key figures from various city agencies, engaging them in the overarching Smart City project, hearing their issues and challenges, and bringing together relevant stakeholders to reach investment targets necessary to enact change. Any Smart City Department should also have an eye on demonstrating to the general public the benefits of the project, and the impact of the investment made on their behalf.

A growing need for urban commute-friendly vehicles

During peak hours in congested cities, e-bikes can provide a faster, cheaper way from A to B versus sitting in a cab or car in traffic. As urban areas grow ever denser, space will be at a premium – e-bikes take up less space, on the road, and to park. And the climate benefits of a cycling culture are undeniable. Research conducted by the Municipality of Copenhagen found that cyclists reduce CO2 emissions by 20,000 tons a year, on average.

Smart city planners are investing in tech that promotes the health and well-being of their citizens. Urban mobility is one area they are focused on. While all two-wheeled vehicles offers a healthier commute than riding in cars or on rails, e-bikes provide low impact exercise, making them a viable option for those of all ages and fitness levels, even individuals with injuries.

Urban biking often appeals to the fit and fearless, but the addition of an electric motor opens up this mode of transport to a broader population not necessarily in it for the carb burn. An e-bike can be operated strictly on battery power or by pedal power, but optimal energy efficiency is achieved by doing both at the same time. This enables riders to cover a lot more ground in less time, carry heavier loads, and “flatten hills” for considerably greater ease on challenging terrain.

Since e-biking is not as sweat-inducing, it’s a more viable option for those who wear a suit or dress to work. Some employers are taking notice, enticing their staff with special incentives for riding electric bikes to work. Attesting to the physical health advantages of commuting this way, the city of Copenhagen reports that residents who cycle request 1.1 million fewer sick days.

E-bike enthusiasts also cite the mental benefits of this thrill ride, likening it to the feeling of freedom first felt as a child taking to two wheels. Commuters arrive at work or home relaxed, with no need to decompress, a vast difference from their mental state after sitting in a car in city traffic.