Su$tainable Mobility, Volume 9
This newsletter aims to separate the signal from the noise for making money in all things sustainable transportation: Electrification, mode shift, active and public transit, and mobility aggregation, across both people and goods movement.
Feedback is always welcome. Feel free to DM me on Twitter or send an email with your thoughts on what else you might like to see as content.
This week, we have a Deep Dive on how jaywalking is a scam.
Disclaimer: This newsletter represents my own thoughts and not those of any employer. I will always disclose when I have a financial relationship with a company cited.
QUICK HITS: Fast takes on notable news from last week
🏡 California Governor Gavin Newsom soundly defeated the recall attempt, and celebrated by ending single-family zoning in California. Single-family zoning has an ugly history rooted in racism, resulting in sprawl, highway dependency, and an unhealthy reliance on private car ownership. This is good news for housing affordability and mobility businesses focused on helping urban dwellers avoid car ownership.
🔋Redwood Materials aims to go beyond battery recycling and get into the production of cathode and anode foils. The US risks becoming an also-ran in the battery world unless it can make ambitious projects like this work. JB Straubel brings unbeatable credibility.
🛻 Ford is doubling production capacity for the upcoming F-150 Lightning. The F-150 is undeniably Ford’s cash cow, with no room for mistakes. So it’s a great sign for the pickup truck market that Ford is getting so bullish. Meanwhile, Rivian has started shipping production units. Let the e-pickup wars begin.
⛽️ Sales of diesel-powered cars in Western Europe fell below a 20% share. As recently as 2017, diesel held 40%+ of the Western European market. This is another sign of how successful EU policies have been in moving the passenger car market away from both greenhouses gases and local air pollutants.
🇫🇷 Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo is running for President of France. Few global mayors have had such a focus and impact on sustainable mobility in their cities as Mayor Hidalgo. Her more progressive mobility policies may be a tougher sell in the provinces.
🇳🇱 Dutch court rules that Uber drivers are employees. Given developments in the UK and in Brussels, it’s a reasonable possibility that ridehail drivers in most or all European markets end up with employee status.
👷🏽♀️Ola Electric’s new e-scooter factory employs only women. Founder Bhavish Aggarwal notes that addressing the chronic employment barriers for Indian women will unleash Indian GDP growth. Some interesting parallels to Henry Ford’s $5 a day approach to growing the American middle class.
⛽️ Chevron CEO admits the company doesn’t know how to invest in energy. Fascinating to see the CEO publicly acknowledge a topic from Volume 2. Quite a statement for a CEO to claim that wind and solar create “low financial return for stockholders” when Chevron stock is at the same level as 5 years ago while NextEra Energy stock has more than doubled.
STARTUP WATCH: Sustainable mobility startups (generally pre-seed or seed) to keep an eye on
🔌 DazeTechnology (Italy): Autonomous conductive charging system for EVs
👩💻 Emsol (UK): Real-time monitoring and analytics SaaS platform for vehicle fleets, focused on reducing air and noise pollution
💪🏾 Gigforce (India): On-demand labor force for last-mile delivery
🎟 Jatri (Bangladesh): Bus ticketing and reservations platform
🏍 Shandoka (North Carolina, USA): Converting existing motorcycles to electric with a bolt-on structural adapter; modular retrofit kits installed by a trained builder network
🔌 WattPark (France): EV charger and software platform designed for peer-to-peer reservations and payment
DEEP DIVE: Jaywalking is a scam
Before the arrival of the passenger car, city streets operated by an entirely different set of rules. Pedestrians were free to gather wherever they wanted on the street, with children playing among horse-drawn carriages that would move at a moderate speed. There were occasional pedestrian deaths from horse-drawn carriages, but the pedestrian was considered the rightful owner of the street.
The car changed that.
The first owners of cars were wealthy individuals who saw cars as leisure novelties, akin to how we might view luxury boats today. As cars started arriving in cities, casualties mounted quickly. Public sentiment was decidedly against the killing machines and their negligent drivers.
A catalytic change began in Cincinnati in 1922. Concerned citizens, some of them with ties to the railroad industry, started a petition to require any vehicle operating within Cincinnati city limits to have a speed governor prohibiting the car from traveling faster than 25 miles per hour (40 km per hour).
The issue was put to vote and defeated, in part due to concern about the economic impact on Cincinnati. But the vote put the emerging auto industry on red alert and resulted in a series of escalating interventions at the grassroots level and in Washington, D.C.
In 1928, US Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover published the Model Municipal Traffic Ordinance. While the document was only guidance to local municipalities, it enshrined the concept that pedestrians were only to cross at designated crosswalks. With clear guidance from the federal government, local municipalities began adopting laws based on the premise that the pedestrian’s right was subsidiary to that of the automobile.
During the same decade, the vocabulary started consistently emerging to describe proper and improper behavior in the streets. The term “jay” (akin to the word “rube”) was initially applied to drivers, not pedestrians. The “jay driver” was applied to the reckless drivers who couldn’t figure out which side of the road to drive on. Over time, the word “jaywalker” was invented, first to describe those who lacked sidewalk decorum, only later becoming cemented as the term for a pedestrian who crosses the street outside of a designated intersection.
So what makes jaywalking a scam?
In the US, jaywalking citations are disproportionally handed out to Black Americans. The shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014 was the result of the police initially stopping Brown for walking in the middle of a pedestrian street, behavior that was the norm a century ago (see here).
Moreover, jaywalking citations don’t actually result in improved safety outcomes. Evidence shows that the majority of pedestrian deaths occur while crossing the street legally in a crosswalk (see here).
Thankfully, many cities are dropping the notion of jaywalking as a traffic violation. As we make that change, we have the opportunity to clarify the roles and responsibilities of pedestrians, micromobility, and highway-speed vehicles in our cities.
Covid testing centers that are “drive-through only” are also a scam. I applaud this cyclist.