Nearly 3.5 million people live in Berlin. But each one of them lives in their own little city and follows their own personal “mental map.” What does that mean for mobility service providers?
“The task changes not only from one individual to the next based on their own specific characteristics, but also from hour to hour, according to that unique situation.”
Viktor E. Frankl, psychoanalyst
A city is built of stone, steel, glass, and concrete. Hard materials that get in our way more often than we might like. Masses of people flow through the gaps between buildings like water through an inflexible system of canals. Commuter trains and subways carry us over iron, grid-like platforms. With frustrating regularity, street signs and concrete barriers keep us from making that urgently needed U-turn.
There’s nothing you can do about it. Or is there?
In his 1960s classic “The Image of the City” American urban planner Kevin Lynch described how each city resident creates their very own mental map that consists of what he refers to as paths, edges, districts, nodes, and landmarks. In other words, these hard materials are unable to suppress people’s urge to move about. There are nearly 3.5 million people living in Berlin. But each one of them sees the city from their own unique perspective and follows their own path. That means there are close to 3.5 million Berlins.
As part of our co-creation process, we asked MOIA community members from Berlin to draw on a map of the city and show us the areas they most frequently spend time in and travel through. The result were hand-drawn heatmaps that recall graphic representations of data based on tweets or traffic statistics that attempt to show what’s happening in a city in real time. While someone never leaves the district they grew up in, their neighbor travels all the way across town on their way to work.
Berlin residents travel for an average 80 minutes a day according to a national study on mobility in cities. Whereas in many German cities, private vehicles are used for over 50% of trips, Berlin residents walk 32% of the time and also frequently use public transportation (26.5%) or their bicycles (13%). Motorized private transport only accounts for 28.3% of travel in Germany’s capital city. So the people of Berlin are indeed most flexible in their urban travel. Their personal city maps are as unique as a fingerprint.
The behaviors and dreams of city dwellers are changing faster than the urban infra- Structure that surrounds them.
So what do you do if your personal heatmap is not compatible with the public transport network? Even if enough demand exists, the construction of new subways and tunnels costs millions of euros and takes years to complete. Maybe that’s one of the reasons why our Berlin co-creators are so interested in new mobility solutions. Ride pooling, bike sharing, and other services don’t require new structures of stone and steel. Quite the opposite — they establish new connections between existing systems. As a result, new pathways and districts appear, borders dissolve, and landmarks hopefully come within reach. It’s time to redraw our mental maps of the city.