When is a bicycle a ladder?
Building blocks. Ladders. Bootstraps. Shoulders to stand on.
When we talk about making a better life, one way or another we talk about moving up, reaching higher, standing taller.
This blog is an invitation to you to think about mobility as a building block, a ladder. And to think about it as being free.
It's hard to do at first, to take something that has been built up in one's mind as expensive, limited, exclusive, hard to attain -- and then one day to wake up and think of it as free, as widespread, as a simple ingredient rather than a main course.
But this is where we all are today with transportation. For a century, transportation has meant the automobile: a large, expensive, heavy, exclusive machine that one could strive for but that not everyone could have. Looking back before the automobile, transportation meant the horse: a large, expensive, heavy, exclusive creature that one could strive for but that not everyone could have. One of my favorite transportation-related words is the Spanish word "caballero" -- a caballero signifies a gentleman, but literally the word means "a person with a horse".
Today though, we can all go faster than a caballero, and we can do it for (almost) free, by riding a little electric vehicle such as an electric bike, scooter, or similar contraption.
So what do we do when something that was once exclusive and precious, becomes nearly free? We aim higher. We seek more. We rise. It happened with water, when we figured out how to gather it and channel it to where it was needed. It happened with food, when we figured out how to farm it with machinery in a way that let 99% of us do other things with our day than grow it. It happened with literacy, when the printing press meant that a book wasn't the product of a thousand hours of handwriting labor and was no longer for the few. More recently, it happened with computing, when mainframes gave way to desktops and then to laptops and then to cellphones.
And in the past decade, and evermore in the decades to come: the ability to move at the speed of a city, to move where you want, when you want, has become (nearly) free.
And now that mobility is an ingredient, a building block, a ladder, rather than something exclusive and precious, the question is: how will we use this newfound freedom to lift ourself and those in our life higher?
At FreeBike, we have some suggestions:
Mobility as an Amenity: add personal light electric vehicles to an apartment building, and you have a better, more valuable apartment building. Maybe you charge for it, maybe you bundle it into the price of the apartment, but don't be the last one to realize how these little electric vehicles change the relationship between a piece of real estate and the experiences that are within reach.
Mobility as a Benefit: add personal light electric vehicles to the list of benefits that your employees can take advantage of, by using the group buying power FreeBike offers in order to let your employees commute and park with the ideal commuter vehicles.
Mobility as a Public Service: add personal light electric vehicles to the set of public transportation options. Help people get to jobs, to school, and out to shop and see each other; good things will follow. Public transit does not have to mean mass transit.
So go ahead caballeros and caballeras, close your eyes, shake the image of an expensive car from your mind, then replace it with a (nearly) free electric bike or scooter, and imagine: how high can you and the people in your life reach now? This is the history of (nearly) free; this is the emerging present and the future of mobility.