Shared Mobility in the Middle East

On October 8th 2019, Fadiah Achmadi presented “Shared Mobility in Different Cultural Perspectives – Intercultural Lessons from the Middle East” at Shared Mobility Rocks 2019, an International Symposium on Shared Mobility held in Brussels. The presentation was developed together with Mr. Mohamed Jama Mohamed from the Abu Dhabi Department of Transport.

In short, the presentation mainly consists of three parts:

  1. The current mobility situation in the Middle East

Mobility in the Middle East is characterised by a dominant car culture, which shapes or (the other way around) is fuelled by wide roads. People must normally drive long distances. There is some kind of a societal obligation to possess luxury cars. Despite the many public transport projects undertaken in the Middle East in the last decade, public transport options are generally still limited, and women resist public transport when segregation is not provided. There is also an unavoidable natural factor: temperatures can reach 55 degree Celsius in the summer. Another important factor is the low fuel prices. In Abu Dhabi, for instance, a litre of milk costs three times more than a litre of gasoline.

  1. How shared mobility is perceived

Shared mobility systems already exist in the Middle East. The region is host to many car-sharing systems, both station-based and free-floating models. However, their success is being hindered by strong socio-cultural factors. Owning a car increases one’s public image and is a symbol of freedom. This issue also plays an important role in the success of bike sharing systems, along with the climate factor.

In terms of car pool, due to the sexes segregation, Muslims cannot use car-pooling services if they cannot choose the driver and passengers with whom they travel. To address this issue, the Abu Dhabi Department of Transport, for instance, has integrated a carpool platform in its journey planner. It has become very popular, especially among female colleagues who want to commute together. In other Middle Eastern countries, private female-only carpool platforms have emerged to address women’s mobility needs.

  1. How sustainable mobility is promoted

Governments in the Middle East have been making significant efforts to accelerate sustainable mobility in their cities. They are pioneers in futuristic forms of mobility, as new sustainable cities emerge. Think of Masdar City and the brand-new NEOM. Both include 100% green transport systems, in which shared mobility is an important part. The biggest challenge at the moment is the cultural issue and the mindset of travellers. Cultural change takes time!

The full presentation (12 pages) can be downloaded through this link.

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