Pelle Menke


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Pelle Menke, Communications and Programme officer Mobility at Amsterdam Smart City, posted

Demoday #20: Urban Air Mobility: Use-cases and equity considerations

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When considering the future of (urban) mobility we often limit ourselves to urban mobility options we’re used to, like our road- water- and railway networks. But what if we think outside of the box. What if we extended our urban transportation system with sustainable aviation options?

Introducing Electric Vertical Take Off & Landing (eVTOL) options into our transportation system could be a promising move in achieving our urban and provincial goals. Examples of its benefits are; reduced greenhouse gas emissions by electrification, serving rural communities, more efficient emergency response, and decreased surface congestion and crash rates.

And what about some critical issues regarding this development? Think; dependence on battery technology and lithium scarcity, the immense pressure on the energy grid and complications when implementing in cities with old infrastructure cities like Amsterdam.

Case & Set-up of the Session

During our 20th Demoday we had an international guest; Kerry Rohrmeier. During her work as a researcher at San Jose State University, she was finalizing a paper on Urban Air Mobility (UAM). She was visiting The Netherlands to gather input on possible use-cases and considerations from Dutch experts and aviation related networks. As part of her visit, Chris de Veer invited her to join our Demoday and gather input from the Amsterdam Smart City network. It turned out to be a win-win situation. Kerry introduced this sci-fi-esque subject -and its progress in the US- to the network, and a diverse set of participants discussed her research questions in a focus-group setting.

The following paragraphs describe Kerry’s research topics and the answers we came up with as a group.


Appropriate UAM use cases in broader sustainable systems
The group saw eVTOL modes of transport as;

  • A promising alternative to our costly regional transport system, due to its small form, autonomous driving and on-demand possibilities.
  • An alternative to ferry transportation to (nearby) national islands like Texel and Terschelling.
  • A sustainable mode of transportation for sports teams traveling to- and from national opponents.
  • A sustainable and efficient mode of transportation for emergency teams like the ambulance, police and firefighters. Its use would cut response- and travel times.
  • A luxurious alternative to private jets and polluting travel behaviour by the rich.

Equity implications of new UAM and vertiports networks
When it comes to affordability of UAM services the question arises; who should take the lead in its implementation? Public authorities or the market? Subsidies and investments from the government would be needed but to what extent? Private parties could push down pricing create more value with air travel by collecting and selling data from the air (e.g. air-quality and weather predictions) but how desirable is this?

There are also questions regarding safety, because; how to preserve safety in and outside unmanned aircrafts? This led to discussions regarding the use of cabin ‘hosts’ and on ground safety persons monitoring in-cabin safety. Furthermore, someone pointed out how this was also one of the main concerns when elevators where introduced for the first time. This idea of using a closed space with strangers brought up the need for an elevator ‘operator/host’. Later on, this necessity slowly decreased. This could be an interesting case to study when addressing this ‘trust’ and safety topic.

Conclusions and nest steps

Kerry was very content with the discussions that were initiated and the insights she gathered from our perspectives on the case of Urban Air Mobility. It’s important to consider and play into this topic when designing our sustainable transportation system for the future. There are a lot of opportunities, mentioned in the paragraphs above. However, how this development could make a transportation system more ‘just’ and equal remains the question. While we see a rise in innovation and private parties willing to bring eVTOL to the next level, the discussions regarding affordability (for the masses), safety, and its reliance on batteries and a congested energy grid will require special attention.

For now, Kerry Rohrmeier will finish her research paper on this topic and we hope to update you soon with its publication and conclusions! Would you like to know more about this topic or get in contact with Kerry? Let me know via

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Pelle Menke, Communications and Programme officer Mobility at Amsterdam Smart City, posted

Transition Day 2023: Mobility Justice - Power structures and engaging your target group

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While our mobility system and its options are continuously expanding, there’s a growing number of people who feel excluded from the mobility system and experience a lack of access to services like public transport and shared mobility options. The concept of Mobility Poverty shows there are a variety of reasons for this exclusion, ranging from economic and geographical reasons, to falling behind on digital skills. If we want to move towards ‘Mobility Justice’, we would need a detailed image of the groups experiencing this exclusion and we would need a variety of actors to come up with -and implement- creative solutions to this emerging problem.

For the past months, Chris de Veer and I have been busy setting up a regional coalition and program on this subject. Because it’s becoming clear we’re discussing a problem we, a pool of mobility specialists, are not experiencing ourselves, we decided to critically look at what parties have a seat at the table. During the Amsterdam Smart City Transition Day on June 6th, we gathered input and reflections on the power structures in play and considerations when involving your target group in decision making.  

Understanding power relations and structures when working on transitions

When designing solutions and innovative policies, it’s important to understand and be aware of the power structures in play. Our partner Kennisland is concerned with the topic and introduced this discussion within our network during on of our ‘Kennissessies’ earlier this year. Together with this session’s participants, we used their method to evaluate which parties have been involved in the initial phase of our Mobility Justice challenge.

It became clear that it had been mostly governmental parties which were involved in exploring the topic and initiating the design of a cooperation program. While this is of importance for practical matters like funding  and political support, the group should have been diversified when we started exploring the problem and its solutions. The (target) group we’re talking about is currently lacking the power to help design both the collaboration process itself and the initiatives that should help fight Mobility Poverty.

Considerations when engaging with your target group

There was a general consensus in the group that we should now make more of an effort to engage with our target group. But how exactly? The group discussed different existing forms of involving a target group in decision making and advised us on matters to consider, namely;

  • Decide in what stage(s) of the process collaboration or input is needed. Exploring the problem will require a completely different conversation and method compared to the stage of co-designing solutions.
  • Be very clear about what you’ll use the outcomes for. If you decide to gather input from - and collaborate with your target group, you’ll need to actually incorporate the outcomes within your process. This is necessary to maintain the groups trust and validate their efforts.
  • Besides defining problems and exploring its solutions, evaluation of the initiatives that follow will be equally important. Special efforts need to be put into place to keep the dialogue going with the target group during and after testing initiatives.


Next steps: Harnessing the power of community centres

When discussing potential next steps for the group, one of the session’s participants reminded us of the power of community centres. She mentioned an example in her own neighbourhood, where a group of neighbours initiated a sharing vehicle for elderly/disabled people. This example illustrated how local communities know best what specific problems or needs are at play, and how to set up solutions in a quick manner.

This conversation inspired us to now look for relevant local initiatives and community centres in the Amsterdam region. With their help, we hope to better understand problems related to Mobility Poverty and what specific solutions people need within their local context.  

A call to the community

I’m now wondering if there is anyone in our Amsterdam Smart City community who could link us to local initiatives and community centres in the Amsterdam region? Mobility-related topics are a plus, but this is certainly not necessarily. Any advice or tips to share? Send me an email at This summer, we’ll design the continuation of this project.

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Pelle Menke, Communications and Programme officer Mobility at Amsterdam Smart City, posted

Demoday #19: Mobility as a Commons worksession

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In the coming decades, urban population growth and a rising demand for mobility options will cause strain on our public spaces. The city of Amsterdam will counteract this trend by making private car ownership less attractive for its citizens, while making sure there are enough, well facilitated, alternative modes of transport. One could  think of investments in (more) public transport, and the welcoming of shared mobility providers. Currently, some market players are making use of the latter and sharing cars and sharing mopeds are becoming part of the streetscape. Is this enough?   
Mobility as a Commons
On the 23th of March, Diederik Basta and Jop Pék from the municipality of Amsterdam’s innovation department, hosted a working session on the concept of; Mobility as a Commons (MaaC). They introduced this concept by pointing out that currently, we’re not ‘sharing’ our modes of transport but we’re just ‘renting’ them from private companies. This raises a couple of concerns; these parties exist purely to maximize profits, they own and sell user data, their fleet of vehicles is not spread evenly throughout the city, and because it’s only available for those who can afford the service, it’s not inclusive for all.

The municipality is now exploring how to move away from these market mechanisms and facilitate car sharing solutions based in local ownership. This summer, they’ll experiment with pilots in which modes of transport are perceived as a ‘Commons’ and cooperatively owned and used by a group of local residents. Their goal is to gather insights on how to facilitate this form of locally organized mobility in the best way possible and pave the way for emerging initiatives.
Paradigm shifts
For this new alternative to succeed, drastic innovation is needed in which public authorities identify and alter their role. That’s why Diederik and Jop are also turning inwards and critically reflecting on the current premises from which they’re acting. Only then, you’ll be able to innovate in a way that you’re breaking free from your current paradigm and its effects. Because they are of such importance, I would like to quickly summarize the three relevant premises:

  1. People act out of self-interest; we assume mistrust. People need control and governance to reinforce the common good. Its effects: A government mistrusting its citizens and legal sealing of documents and procedures.
  2. The municipality owns public space. Public space should be designed and managed by experts to ensure quality, consistency and efficiency of functionalities. Its effects: Struggles with public participation and a focus on efficiency and functionality, instead of social interaction.
  3. The municipality is responsible for a well-functioning mobility system. Public space makes way, and more urban mobility makes people richer and happier. Its effects: Private parties push the mobility system and the government facilitates this, and traveling for work and other (social) activities is the norm.

Reactions from the participants
Next to inspiring the working session participants, Diederik and Job wanted to ignite an active conversation with the diverse group in front of them. They wanted to show the parties at the table how important it is to realise from what kind of premises and paradigm you’re currently ‘innovating’, but they were also curious what others thought of their upcoming project.
A big theme during the discussion was the fact that this ‘commons’ thinking is finding its way within different themes like the energy- and data transition. Energy cooperatives are emerging at a fast rate and this topic is receiving a lot of research and attention from energy companies at the moment. The same goes for cooperative ownership and use of data, as an alternative to protection and the commercial use of data. The different domains should be actively learning from each other, as learnings should be easily transferable. Furthermore, the group discussed the painful dilemma of the innovation department of the municipality. Their critical stance against their own policies is remarkable, but they need to find a balance where the pilot and its results will be refreshing and creative, as well as applicable in current policies as soon as possible. Finally, the group advised the presenters  to; pay special attention to groups of citizens who have less time and resources available to organize themselves, write down in detail all administrative rules and obstructions that counteract these initiatives, and to not forget the power of private parties altogether; with a clear problem definition, they are able to organise and act at a fast rate.
What’s next?
In the coming months, the project’s final preparations and consideration will be implemented. Through the Horizon 2020 (GEMINI) project, The municipality of Amsterdam will cooperate with parties like Townmaking, Smart Innovation Norway, and our partner Cenex Nederland. Together they will guide and research local initiatives within Amsterdam (e.g. de Pijp, Tuindorp Oostzaan, Spaarndammerbuurt), activate a so called ‘Experimenteerregeling’ and create a plug and play system for future local initiatives. Diederik and Jop will incorporate the comments and discussions from this working session, and we’ll make sure to have them share their first learnings with the Amsterdam Smart City network later in 2023.
Do you want to know more about this topic, or would you like to get in contact with Diederik Basta or Jop Pék? You can contact me via, and I’ll connect you!

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Pelle Menke, Communications and Programme officer Mobility at Amsterdam Smart City, posted

Mobility Justice Challenge: How do we prevent people’s exclusion in our mobility system?

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Rising petrol and electricity prices; increasing digitalisation and declining public transport supply, among other things, are causing more and more people to have problems getting around. Sustainability and shared mobility do not seem to be for everyone, and measures to encourage them may even exacerbate the problem. This increases the risk of social exclusion.

The province of North Holland and DRIFT are concerned about mobility poverty and wonder what we can do about it to keep everyone in our society mobile. However, little is still known about the extent of the problem, the exact target groups and what instruments work (and what, above all, do not). We are therefore keen to engage with partners to reach a shared understanding and an aligned approach.

Since mid 2022, we have been working on this challenge with network partners in various working group sessions. Would you like to think along and be part of the solution? Contact me at

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