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Why citizens love carsharing

by Lise Espersen
6 minutes

Together with my colleague I recently had the chance to travel to Bremen and Bergen to meet several local residents  who benefit directly from the services of the  SHARE-North project.

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I had read in a previous blog article that the project is doing a great job in helping to stimulate the take up of green transport solutions in a number of cities throughout the North Sea Region including the concept of carsharing. I wanted to see how this was being achieved in practice and I began to wonder what specific factors spurred people into using these types of services in the first place?

Catching up with the locals

To find out the answers to these questions I talked to some local citizens from Bremen and Bergen for whom the project has made a difference in their daily lives.

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Video by Kira Petersen

I was able to talk to Achim Ehrenberg and Helke Napierala. They live in Bremen and use one of Bremen’s car-sharing services which operate from one of SHARE-North’s mobility hubs. They explained to me that the scheme suited their lifestyle. The mobility hub with the carsharing scheme was located very near to their house. In addition they never have problems finding a car parking space as the mobility hub is fitted with small barriers that can be raised up once the car share is being used, to avoid others from parking there. Previously, when they had owned a car, they had driven around their neighborhood for up to twenty minutes looking for a car parking space in the afternoons.

Local residents in Bergen, Steinar Utne and Jonas Henriksen, also provided me with several reasons why they liked to use the local car-sharing services. These ranged from being able to choose between different sizes of car depending on their needs (either a small family car or a van that could be used for transporting furniture) to reducing the number of unnecessary trips they make.

Understanding the problem

I knew from my background reading that the SHARE-North project supported the development of ‘mobility points’ (mobil.punkte). These transport hubs are based in different neighborhoods throughout Bremen and Bergen and offer access to different types of sustainable and shared transport modes – including space for carshare vehicles. What I specifically wanted to understand was why both cities are so engaged in carsharing and how the mobility hubs and car sharing schemes work in practice.

I went to Bremen, put on my walking shoes and walked around the city center. I wanted to get a sense of the city and see for myself if there were any specific problems related to parking or congestion. Being a cycling city – with twice as many bikes as cars – Bremen does not suffer the same levels of congestion as some of its European counterparts. Nevertheless, the effects of increased car ownership per household and a general rise in car ownership was clear to see in the city.

There were cars parked everywhere and unfortunately often illegally on both sides of the road, blocking cycle paths and forcing cyclists onto the busy roads – and there were many cyclists.

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Video by Kira Petersen

After my walk I sat in a café and watched the traffic flow past. Then I spotted a car-sharing car drive past and I became curious. I recognised it because of the logo on the door. I wondered who would use a car-share scheme and why? I thought about the prospect of giving up my car and using a car share. Maybe I could. The thought was certainly appealing, especially as I use my car so infrequently. No more trips to the garage for repairs, car insurance payments or car cleaning on Sunday mornings. Suddenly out of nowhere another carshare car appeared and then another.  It seems that the residents of Bremen certainly aren’t shy when it comes to using carsharing.

I was able to talk to Rebecca Karbaumer from the SHARE-North project. I learnt from Rebecca that Bremen boasts over 100 car-sharing stations, 30 of which are mobile hubs (mobil.punkte), with over 14,000 people regularly using more than 340 carsharing cars – and with numbers growing. Rebecca kindly took me to a larger sized mobility hub in another part of the city. This one had a charging station for electric cars. She also taught me how the small barrier that Ehrenberg and Napierala liked so much worked in practice.

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Video by Kira Petersen

The idea of a designated parking space is very appealing to me as a car owner as I currently have no designated car parking space where I live. I have the same issues with parking in my neighborhood, especially since there are many on street parking restrictions and time limits. Imagine if I had a designated car parking. The idea of using a carshare was becoming more and more appealing to me.

Transnational cooperation the key to success

Rebecca explained to me that the mobility hubs were not just functioning in Bremen. Through the SHARE-North project Bremen has inspired their implementation in other countries in the North Sea Region including Flanders and Bergen. The project enables partners from each country to share valuable knowledge and test different options and solutions when it comes to the set-up and running of the mobility hubs and shared transport solutions. For example, Bergen is well advanced in the use of electric carsharing vehicles and can support Bremen when it comes to expanding their facilities for electric carshare vehicles.

In Bergen I was able to witness some of the issues the city was facing as a result of increased car ownership and parking problems. Once again, I decided to take a walk through town to check out come of the traffic issues. I reflected that Bergen was very different to Bremen in its landscape. Bergen is far hillier than Bremen and there are far less bicycles. Both cities however share the problem of congestion and limited car parking. Similar to Bremen, several residential areas within the city suffered from parking issues, causing problems for local residents such as blocked footpaths and narrowing the available road space on the street.

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Video by Kira Petersen

Whilst in Bergen I was lucky to be able to join the opening of Bergen’s first mobility hub. Just like some of the hubs in Bremen, the hub in Bergen links car-sharing with other sustainable modes of transport that complement each other, including pedestrian and cycling facilities, public transport stops and electric charging points, both for carsharing and private electric vehicles.

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Video by Kira Petersen

Changing habits

It is clear to me that the mobility hubs that the SHARE-North project is implementing in the cities of Bremen, Bergen and Flanders provide a noticeable central point for accessing carsharing vehicles and other shared mobility solutions.

They also play a vital role in promoting and encouraging the usage and take up of car sharing by the local residents. I sat in the coach on the way back to the airport and contemplated the way I use my own car. Unfortunately there are no carsharing solutions in my town so I will have to keep my car. I was certainly inspired to think about the number of unnecessary journeys I make though. In future I will think more before using my car. Is the trip really necessary and can it wait?