ACTE Column: Setting the wheels in motion

Other countries’ ground transport solutions can influence future developments at home, but cultural norms still prevail

When i was at the BBT Forum in May, I was intrigued by the industry perspective of Uber for Business on how integrated its product is in certain markets and cultures. Especially for younger generations, taking an Uber is as normal as it is for the Dutch to hop on a bike. It’s fascinating how the ground transportation landscape is changing. New travel apps are popping up; train companies are striving to accommodate the business traveller; true end-to-end solutions are becoming more realistic as new tech comes into play. Also, car rental companies are becoming innovators and implementing new tools.

For the Dutch, it is hard to understand why ground transportation is the “poor child” of the travel industry. For Dutch people, like myself, it is the most important part of the travel ecosystem. To start with… the bike! Everyone in the Netherlands has at least two bikes – a “city bike” that you use for everyday transportation, and a “fancy bike” for sports and/or longer distances.

And then there is the foldable bike, which people use to cycle to the station in the morning, fold up on the train, unfold on arrival and continue their journey to work. I had one for a couple of years and it was very convenient, and paid for by my employer.

The only challenge was what to do with the bike when going to social events after work – it found its way to many bars and restaurants. But my bike gets me everywhere and it can be pretty multifunctional when you get the hang of it. I tend to do conference calls on my bike when I am en route, hands-free, of course. The Dutch government is introducing new legislation this summer which forbids the use of any mobile device on the bike, which I think is a good thing given the numerous accidents. Fortunately for me, hands-free calls will still be allowed.

Taking an Uber is as normal as it is for the Dutch to hop on a bike

Modes of travel
The railway works well in the Netherlands since we are a small country and there is a wide network of connections. The commuting is easy enough to limit the time spent on the train. For any business trips under four hours, I take the train city centre to city centre and do a couple of solid hours’ work. It’s sustainable, there’s free wifi, and I can stretch and walk around if and when I want to.

In the Netherlands, we don’t yet use taxis or shared rides that much, but that landscape is changing with companies, including Uber, Lyft and ViaVan, coming on to the scene.

But in the end, any mode of transport has to fit into a company or a nation’s culture. Just as we have the bike in the Netherlands, the railway in Germany and Italy is very much part of the ecosystem, while in Belgium, they are still very attached to their cars.

When it comes to ground transport and its uses, there’s lots of room for development. New solutions are on their way and will be adapted by different cultures as needed.

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