According to the European Commission (2019, p. 3), ‘transport’s activity across Europe is high and set to continue growing, estimates suggest that passenger transport will increase by 42% by 2050, and freight transport by 60%’. In particular, over the past few decades, passenger transport has grown rapidly, and it is expected to follow a similar trend for the future (Eurostat 2020a, b). This unbalanced and rapid growth has resulted in a multitude of effects on people and the environment, including traffic congestion, pollution, and health-related issues, which in the absence of a radical shift towards more sustainable (and maybe shared) means of transportation, will worsen even further in the immediate future.
In order to assess the possible contribution of shared mobility to the transition towards a more sustainable European mobility ecosystem, it is relevant to understand which sectors contribute the most to the current modal split scenario. Considering the EU-28 modal split by mode (Table 5.1), data shows that overall, the car is the most used mode of transportation, accommodating more than 70% of the total trips in 2017. From a historical perspective (last row of Table 5.1), air transport (72.3%) is the sector that grew the most over the last 23 years. Public transport experienced a significant increase for tram and metro (14.3%) and railway (6.2%), while sea transport (−33.3%) and bus and coach (−23.7%) have decreased. As a result, even though the share of the tram, metro and railway (15.8% in 2017) transport is growing over time, public transport is still perceived to be a poor alternative to car use (70.9% in 2017).
In a more detailed way (Table 5.2), in 2017, data about a modal split of passenger transport on land by country shows that overall, the EU-28 passenger relies for 80.9% on cars, while public transport counts for less than 20% in total (with the following shares: 11.7% buses and coaches, 5.7% railways, 1.7% trams and metro). There are no countries where means of transportation other than cars count for the majority of the modal shift-share. Nevertheless, there are a few countries which show a better distribution among the analysed means, such as Hungary (67.6% passenger cars, 20.4% buses and coaches, 8.6% railways, and 3.4% trams and metro) and the Czech Republic (66.2% passenger cars, 15.7% buses and coaches, 8.4% railways and 9.7% trams and metro).
Overall, these figures reveal that the dependence on the car has accelerated dramatically in most European cities between 1995 and 2017, whereas public transport has remained at very low levels, with some modest success stories (e.g., Hungary, Malta, Estonia, Slovakia for bus and coaches; the Netherlands, Austria, and France for railways and the Czech Republic, Austria; and Romania for trams and metro). Clearly, car dependence has a series of implications for the future sustainability of cities, and shared mobility can play a key role in a transition towards a more sustainable European mobility ecosystem.
The access to actual figures of shared mobility services is still limited and what can be presented in this chapter represents a non-exhaustive overview. Nevertheless, some data about the principal sharing schemes available in Europe can help to understand this fast-evolving sector and might contribute to highlight possible synergies with other transport modes—especially with public transport.
Car-Based Sharing Models: Evolution and Recent Trends
The car-based sharing landscape in Europe is evolving rapidly. Systems can vary from: vehicles available for self-drive (e.g., public such as Car Sharing Rome, or private such as Share Now); services provided by private car owners, who provide for-hire rides such as ride-hailing—to parallel a taxi service (e.g., Uber or Lyft), or ride-sharing—individuals offering to share their vehicle on usually longer journeys (e.g., BlaBlaCar); to car-pooling where associates and employees of individual companies can select a car from a fleet of vehicles as required.
About services where people ‘pay for a ride’ such as Uber or BlaBlaCar—stressing that the first one is more similar to taxi service—the landscape of these services in Europe is very varied. In some countries such as Italy, Germany, Hungary, France, Finland, and the Netherlands, the strict regulation in the taxi industry makes it difficult for concepts such as Uber to penetrate while ride-sharing is allowed. In countries such as the United Kingdom, apps, e.g., Uber and Gett, can operate because they have been properly regulated, and BlaBlaCar is becoming increasingly popular (Schiller et al. 2017).
About the use of car-sharing, the EU-funded project Shared mobility opportunities And challenges foR European citieS (STARS) in 2018 reported and assessed different aspects of the majority of European car-sharing services (about 90% of the total), with 186 analysed car-sharing services spread over 25 countries (Rodenbach et al. 2018). According to this research, the most diverse selection of car-sharing services is found in Germany—with 155 available at the time of publication. They found that Belgium, France, Italy, the Netherlands and the UK also offered a large number of car-sharing services. Furthermore, some of the schemes are cross-border, operating in a number of national territories. The researchers identified Share Now, Zipcar, Communauto, Snappcar and Carmigo as enjoying a more dominant market position due to their more ‘international approach’ (Rodenbach et al. 2018).
In the past few years, car-sharing has gained popularity due to several positive factors, such as reduced travel costs, traffic congestion and emissions. Before the pandemic, almost 1000 cities worldwide have offered car-sharing services (Movmi 2019). However, the COVID-19 outbreak’s impact on the sector is huge, and ‘the car-sharing market is estimated to lose its share by 50–60% during 2020’ (MarketsandMarkets Research Private Ltd. 2020). Even though evidence-based research on the impact of COVID-19 measures on a modal share of private and public transport are still scarce (Bucsky 2020), some study argues that private car usage increased dramatically during the pandemic while car-sharing lost its shared as a ‘result of the WHO recommendations to maintain social distancing and avoid sharing the same space with multiple people’ (Articonf 2020).
Bike-Sharing: A Fast-Growing Sector
Bike-sharing systems (BSS) have experienced a significant evolution over time. From a technological point of view, BSS available in Europe today belong mainly to (i) the third generation systems, where bicycles can be borrowed or rented from an automated station or ‘docking stations’ (bike racks) that lock the vehicle and only release it by computer control (in this system the bike can be returned at any station belonging to the same system) and (ii) the fourth-generation systems where: free-floating bikes (dockless bikes) are available on-demand using mobile phone apps and Global Positioning System (GPS) technologies.
Due to the rapid changes in BSS systems, and the dynamic of the market providers, it is almost impossible to quantify the number of bikes available in Europe. There are some estimates based on a variety of sources that cannot be considered definitive numbers. A Bike Share World Map has been made available by Google (Meddin et al. 2020) in order to localise bike-sharing schemes all over the world. At the date of publishing, according to Wikipedia, Europe counts 190,000 bicycles available for sharing (Wikipedia 2020).
Countries such as Spain, France, the United Kingdom and Italy have the largest number of such schemes, which are all but absent in ‘cycling countries’ such as the Netherlands and Denmark. Bike-sharing schemes, therefore, seem to be most relevant where bicycle ownership is not (yet) peaking (European Commission 2020).
The sector has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Interestingly, recent research (a case study about Budapest in Hungary, for the limited period of March 2020) shows that bike-sharing became more popular due to rapid virus containment measures, while other shared mobility systems saw a lower-than-average decrease. The restrictions to people’s mobility due to the pandemic caused, in fact, the lowest decrease of every mean of transport for cycling and bike-sharing in particular (23 and 2%, respectively) (Bucsky 2020).
Electric Scooter Sharing: A New-Born Means of Shared Mobility
Similar to what happened in 2018 across the United States, within the past two years, a wave of electric scooter (e-scooter) operators has emerged in European cities. As of March 2020, Paris and Berlin appear to be the hub of e-scooter sharing in Europe, followed by Madrid and Stockholm. At the end of 2019, e-scooter sharing in Europe was available in 112 cities (Mobility Foresights 2020). The rapid explosion of companies offering electric scooters in Europe presumably took advantage of a reluctance of people to use public transport during the COVID-19 pandemic, when, in fact, almost ‘93% of the new riders were turned into regular riders, i.e., more than four rides per week, which is a greater conversion than pre-COVID times’ (Mobility Foresights 2020). Due to the increased demand for sustainable transport, many cities promoted e-scooters by both investing in cities’ infrastructures (e.g., renovating bicycle paths and/or increasing their length) and in terms of monetary subsidies provided by the government (e.g., subsidies or tax discounts for the purchase of bikes and/or e-scooters).
The increased use and availability of e-scooters in European cities brings opportunities for sustainable transport, but at the same time, the cycling infrastructure needs significant improvement in order to accommodate both bicycles and e-scooters; adequate parking areas are necessary to provide a safer environment for e-scooter use and, at a more general level, the e-scooter invasion on the streets imposes a series of challenges for those managing the public space. As a consequence, a series of regulation challenges have emerged. These are mainly related to the following topics: (i) the spaces where e-scooters can be used (e.g., roads, bike lanes, pavements, pedestrian areas); (ii) their compliance with safety rules (e.g., helmet, lights and turn signals); (iii) age requirements for their users; (iv) the need to re-establish local government competencies in micro-mobility management; and (v) training requirements (e.g., driving licence) (Eltis 2020).