“My freedom ends where your freedom starts.” Today, Martin Luther King Jr.’s statement means “allowing users to do as they wish”. Enjoy will be leaving Catania by May 20th due to excessive damage and theft of their automobiles: the original fleet of 170 vehicles is now down to 75, only 39 of which are usable. In Rome, the seats of oBike’s bicycles were removed to make them unfit for public use and the bicycles themselves were thrown into the Tiber. When a video was circulating of a girl committing this very act of vandalism, the Italian head of oBike, Andrea Crociani, spoke with Agi: “I’m at a loss to understand the motivation for such a senseless act. We consider shared bicycles to be pieces of street furniture, something for everyone to use. We know that most people want such a service. These acts, even if isolated, hurt everyone.” Another act of vandalism is that of stealing a Helbiz electric scooter. These, through various providers (in Israel Bird, Lime, and others) are more common in Paris and Tel Aviv than in Italy, calling attention to the issue of safety and regulations regarding this mode of transport.
When it comes to transportation, one cannot help but think of Rome, with the closures of the Barberini, Repubblica, and Spagna metro stations, which have been unusable for months due to the malfunction of the escalators. Poor management of public transportation services is one the main reasons for the high rate of private car use in Italy, which ranks first in terms of the number of cars – 62.4 cars per every 100 inhabitants – according to the latest report by Autopromotec, which also highlights the 7-point difference between Italy and Germany, with 55.7 cars per every 100 inhabitants. Italians prefer driving in order to avoid dealing with the precariousness of the infrastructure and the inadequacy of public transportation services.
Milan – where the Ofo bicycles also end up at the bottom of the Naviglio, has the potential. The 2018 McKinsey report places the city in the top ten worldwide in terms of mobility. As of 2011, it had 70 kilometers of bike paths, with a total of 250 planned by 2024. With the introduction of Area C, the volume of traffic has been reduced by 33%. The metro lines (four and one under construction) and suburban railways (managed by ATM) serve more than one million passengers per day combined – the figures published in the 2018 Mobility Charter specify 813.6 million total passengers in the past year with €924.4 million in revenue. ATM has also been in charge of Copenhagen’s metro system since 2018
Mobike and Ofo have distributed more than 20 million bicycles worldwide, 20,000 of which exist in Italy. Just two years after arriving in the country,, Ofo (which received investments from the multinational holding company Alibaba and was founded by Dai Wei) has closed its international division due to problems with its cash flow, as reported by Repubblica on January 11th. The deadline for collecting all of the bicycles present in Milan, including those at the bottom of the Navigli, was April 1, 2019. Mobike, the other major bike sharing company, is still hanging on despite declaring €50 million in loss per month and having considered selling its business in Europe – according to Luca Salviolo, in a December 2018 article for Sole 24 ore. ATM is challenging China with BikeMi, a bike sharing service proposed by the municipal transportation company and active in the city since 2008. For its ten -year anniversary a single card (for public transportation and for bike rental) was released and a new model of bicycle that includes a child seat was put into circulation. 2800 rentals were registered in the first month.
Bike and car sharing services make a city stronger. There are approximately 3000 automobiles (30% of which electric) and 5000 bicycles present in cities worldwide. In 2013 Enjoy, owned by Eni, chose Milan as the first city in which to establish itself. Here it has a fleet of 794 vehicles made up of Fiat 500s and Fiat Doblòs, running on gasoline, LPG, or methanol, while in Rome (with 564 automobiles) and other cities (Florence, Turin, Catania, Bologna) there are only Fiat 500s that run on gasoline. Enjoy’s rival is the German company DriveNow, owned by BMW and present in Milan with 500 automobiles (third after the 1040 in Berlin and 530 in Hamburg). Last year, a joint venture between DriveNow and Car2go was announced, with the two companies forming ShareNow (making an investment of $1.13 billion). The cars can be reserved through a single app. Car2go is controlled by Daimler Ag, the company that, in addition to owning Mercedes, Smart, Maybach, and McLaren, also manages MyTaxi, the Hamburg based company which rivals Uber, and is present in more than one hundred European cities.
In theory, an increase in taxis and a decrease in parking spaces could provide a solution to urban traffic, however one runs into resistance from the taxi drivers who oppose these decisions, rousing the outcry of trade unions and other institutions. As of now, taxi drivers in Italy can refuse credit card payments – especially during rush hour or during a summer thunderstorm – not only in order to avoid fees, but also so that they can apply illegal markups.
MyTaxi arrived in Milan in 2015 and has 850 members. In Italy it is part of the Trenitalia loyalty program network (deals that are in synergy with one another, like 50% off certain trips, are planned). The app – like Uber, Taxify, and Heetch, as well as other local operators – uses geolocation to identify the users’ positions. Passengers leave a final review that evaluates the driver and other variables like cleanliness of the vehicle. A driver with a high average score will be given priority in the assignment of rides – perhaps a positive response to the Nosedive episode of Black Mirror, which in real life could be applied to professional contexts in a way that might benefit progress.
In Milan, MyTaxi is optional for taxi drivers, while for those that adhere to the 8585 radio call the InTaxi app is mandatory, and actually has a faster response time as compared to the latter, though it provides fewer services. For example, InTaxi does not allow passengers to contact the arriving taxi directly without first passing through the switchboard. Uber tried to make peace with the taxi drivers, with Uber Taxi. The service, which in Italy, was launched in Turin last December, provides conditions that are similar to those of MyTaxi: free membership for professionals, with a 7% commission on each ride, and the possibility of receiving an untaxed tip. However, there does not seem to be any benefits for users, as Caterina Maconi mentioned in an article for Wired dated April 8th – as of today no taxi is connected to the service.