Spearheading a “park the car” campaign Ford Europe president Stuart Rowley says the world would be a better place if more people gave up driving to walk or cycle instead.
The concept was “probably the last thing many people would expect from an auto maker,” admitted Rowley.
“However, driving responsibly is no longer just about safety,” he said.
“It’s also about caring for our environment and our health—and walking or cycling can bring about significant change.”
Rowley pointed out that half of European car journeys are less than three miles which are the “kind of trips that could easily be made by bike or on foot.”
Traveling by car was“an “absolute necessity” for some people, Rowley argued, “but for many of us—myself included—it is a habit we must change.”
He pledged to walk and cycle more in his daily life, and said he would be campaigning for others to do likewise.
Ford, he revealed, would be “supporting and investing in schemes that encourage active travel,” such as walking and cycling projects.
This isn’t the first time the automaker has made such pledges. In a 2011 TED talk, Bill Ford, the company’s executive chairman, said unrestrained car use was bad for the planet.
“I believe we all must turn all of our effort and all of our ingenuity and determination to help now solve this notion of global gridlock,” said the great-grandson of comply founder Henry Ford.
“Because in doing so, we’re going to preserve what we’ve really come to take for granted, which is the freedom to move and move very effortlessly around the world.”
The problem, Ford stressed in 2011, was one of mathematics.
“Today there are approximately 6.8 billion people in the world, and within our lifetime, that number’s going to grow to about nine billion. And at that population level, our planet will be dealing with the limits of growth. And with that growth comes some severe practical problems, one of which is our transportation system simply won’t be able to deal with it.
Ford added: “It’s clear that the mobility model that we have today simply will not work tomorrow. Frankly, four billion clean cars on the road are still four billion cars, and a traffic jam with no emissions is still a traffic jam.
“The bigger issue is that global gridlock is going to stifle economic growth and our ability to deliver food and health care, particularly to people that live in city centers. And our quality of life is going to be severely compromised. The answer to more cars is not to have more roads.”
Six years after Ford’s TED talk the then global CEO Mark Fields told attendees of the North American International Auto Show that his company was about mobility not just selling more cars.
In front of a giant screen at Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena the Ford CEO said that cycling would play a big role in the cities of the future. Behind him an animation showed the city of today and the city of the future—gridlock morphed into free-flowing roads as space was removed from cars and given over to rapid transit, bike lanes, green space, and wider sidewalks.
Fields said there was a “wider range of transport solutions” out there, including bikesharing.
Ford later teamed up with Motivate of San Francisco to roll out the Ford Gobike bike sharing system in 2017. After Motivate’s acquisition by Lyft, the system was renamed to Bay Wheels in June 2019 with Ford’s name removed from branding.