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Giving legs to ‘grassroots mobility’

Giving legs to ‘grassroots mobility’

Tessa R. Salazar

UPLB’s Tipaklong Mobility Sharing Project makes use of e-bikes to address many concerns affecting majority of Pinoys



How does one translate the concept of “inclusive, efficient, and sustainable mobility” into reality for the most number of people? First, start at the grassroots level, where the majority resides. Then, keep your technologies simple, to keep your costs down. Next, don’t look at the big four-wheelers to provide the solution. Think small and personal.

Energy experts at University of Oxford Jillian Anable and Christian Brand have explained that as economies and populations grow, demand for goods grows, as does the number of people with the desire and means to travel. In “The Climate Book,” the two wrote that globally, total transport activity would more than double by 2050 compared to 2015. This huge rise in the use and ownership of cars, as well as the movements of heavy goods vehicles, aviation and shipping, would more than offset any reductions in emissions from technological change.

It is now widely agreed that there is no way we can meet the decarbonization targets of the Paris Agreement (the international treaty on climate change) by 2050 without focusing on the amount of movement of people and goods, especially since, as of 2021, 95 percent of transport is still dependent on oil.

Finally, there needs to be significant behavioral change to go with the shift in new technologies. The two are virtually inseparable. Public and private sectors, producers and consumers must create new habits in the mobility space to effectively swap their inefficient or polluting travel modes for more efficient ones on like-for-like journeys. One example would be taking mass transport, walking, or cycling, instead of driving a car for short trips.

Imagine these short trips as “hops” – – like a grasshopper hops from one point to another. In that way, “Tipaklong mobility“does make a lot of sense when we get inspiration from a “well-hopped” insect.

Robby Cereno, University of the Philippines’ Los Banos Vice Chancellor for Community Affairs, has spearheaded the university’s Tipaklong Mobility Sharing Project, a model of active travel that’s cheap and efficient as it makes use of new, lighter forms of e-micromobility. These forms of transport are becoming cheaper and outselling e-cars in many parts of the world, including Asia. And now Robby and his team are applying the technology and the system in one of the country’s most geographically expansive campuses.

On June 1, the UPLB Tipaklong Mobility Sharing Project will be officially launched, which will also kick-start the celebration of the Philippine Environment Month. The pioneering UPLB-Tipaklong Mobility Sharing Project features a state-of-the-art system of shared e-bikes and e-scooters, accessible to students, faculty and staff, and campus visitors through a mobile application.

Run in partnership with Tipaklong Sustainable Mobility Corp., a startup business owned by UPLB graduates, the project offers an environmentally sustainable, efficient, and accessible transportation option, contributing significantly to UPLB’s goal of future-proofing its university operations.

Discussions began in October 2021 between Robby’s office and the Tipaklong Sustainable Mobility Corp. for the feasibility of a bike scooter ride-sharing system implemented on campus.

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A memorandum of agreement was signed on March 22, 2023. Last April 19, the initial fleet of 40 electric kick scooters, 30 electric bikes, and 50 mechanical bikes from Tipaklong’s partner, SharingOS, a US-based mobility sharing company, arrived at UPLB.

Tipaklong Mobility Sharing aims to achieve four outcomes: Environmental sustainability by the reduction of CO2 emissions from vehicles with internal combustion engines, especially for short-distance trips; enhanced mobility by easing traffic congestion and reducing the demand for parking within the UPLB campus; integration with public transport, thus improving connections with public utility jeepneys serving the UPLB community, and; access and equity by directly addressing mobility challenges, making it affordable and efficient for underserved communities and UPLB constituents.

During the June 1 kickoff, participants will try out the system by going on a bike ride around the campus to explore UPLB’s academic heritage sites and landmarks, as part of the CHED-funded Paseo Edutourism Program. Participants are advised to bring their own water tumblers and helmets, and leave no trash after the event.

The UPLB-Tipaklong Mobility Sharing Project is part of the UPLB Green Mobility Initiative (GMI), a banner program of the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Community Affairs. GMI aims to foster a green academic community by building partnerships and support mechanisms for ecologically sustainable campus transport.