The large majority of European citizens live in an urban environment, living day-to-day in the same space and moving around using the same infrastructure. Mobility is one of the most important domains of cities and territories today. With the growing concentration of people in urban centers, the challenges have also grown exponentially.
Both in Portugal, as in other European cities, populations face problems caused by transport and traffic. So, an important question arises: how to improve mobility in order to reduce congestion, the number of accidents and pollution in cities? This was a question we asked entrepreneurs of the Portuguese startup ecosystem.
Through the Get in the Ring Urban Mobility competition, we joined 4 Portuguese municipalities - Braga, Abrantes, Angra do Heroísmo and Fundão - with real mobility challenges. The goal of this competition is to promote better mobility in Portugal, with the help of talented entrepreneurs with innovative solutions.
We're going to tell you all about how entrepreneurs are solving these problems. But first, discover 3 mobility challenges to be overcome in Portugal:
#1: Low use of public transport by the population
Car-oriented cities have a number of costs for citizens' health and for the environment. Shifting the daily commute from cars to sustainable transport modes can be the solution. However, in cities such as Abrantes and Angra do Heroísmo, these means of transport are not receiving proper acceptance from the inhabitants.
Abrantes is a city built around a castle on a hill, and the terrain is not inviting for movement. To improve mobility for pedestrians, they implemented a minibus that circulates exclusively around the historic center, every day, from 9 am to 6 pm nonstop. The municipality is now looking for a solution that increases and extends its use to as many people as possible.
In the case of Angra do Heroísmo (Terceira Island, Azores), the scenario is a little different. Currently, there is a need to optimize the urban transport service, so that it serves the population more effectively. So, a new central bus station will be built next to the center of Angra do Heroísmo. The challenge will be to define a new public transport system in the municipality that is more attractive to the population and that promotes an increase of 50% in its use and reduces the number of vehicles in the city center by 50%.
#2: Lack of road safety and poor traffic flow
Walking and cycling are transport modes where unprotected road users interact with traffic of high speed and mass. This makes pedestrians and cyclists vulnerable.
However, many cities in Portugal have been developed in line with the predominance of a single mode of transportation: the car. Today, the needs are different. In the city of Braga, there has been a continuous and visible effort to reduce the number of road accidents involving cyclists and pedestrians, but the vision is to lower this number to zero.
The challenge is to promote integration and modal transfer, focusing on road safety without significantly compromising the need for the fluidity of the motor traffic, still vital to the productive capacity of the city and the region.
#3: Low access to sustainable mobility solutions in sparsely populated areas
Rural residents rely more on personally-owned automobiles than their urban counterparts. However, many rural residents in Portugal can’t rely on this means of transport. Personal vehicles can be expensive to purchase and maintain, and some residents may not have a driver's license. But those who can rely on this means of transport end up using a not-so-sustainable solution.
This is the scenario that takes place in several cities across the country, including Fundão. Fundão is predominantly a rural territory where 50% of the population lives in the urban areas of the city. For economic reasons, many of the public transportation lines have been dismantled, leaving thousands of people without access to public transport. Thus, they are limited to private cars.
The challenge focuses on identifying new mobility solutions in these areas with low population density, connecting the needs of the population with all the available operational resources.
These were the challenges launched by the municipalities to which the entrepreneurs responded in the "Get In The Ring Urban Mobility 2021 Event", which took place this week, on the 8th and 9th of June. The event was attended by 25 talented startups who entered the virtual ring and competed with each other to prove that their solutions were the best ones.
The winners of each challenge automatically gained the possibility to develop pilot projects with the respective municipality.
On the 9th, the 4 finalists competed against each other for the title of national champion, the 5,000 euros prize and the opportunity to represent Portugal at the Get in the Ring Global Final. The decision to choose the best startup was made by the jury and the public, who had the opportunity to vote for their favorite.
Do you know who the winner was?
If you didn't have the opportunity to watch the biggest startup battle in the world, organized in Portugal for the first time with the high sponsorship of EIT Urban Mobility, you can do it now.
Are you ready to witness the creation of the future of urban mobility?