Our urban society is undergoing a substantive shift from the hyper-consumerism and the resultant sprawl that defined the second half of the 20th century. Forces such as social technologies, a renewed belief in community, increased environmental awareness, and cost consciousness have us rethinking our old top-heavy and centralized forms of consumerism. In its place, a ‘collaborative urbanism’—based on sharing, aggregation, openness, and cooperation—is emerging.
The trend towards increased collaboration is explained in-depth in the newly published book, What’s Mine Is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption by Rachel Botsman and Roo Rogers. Collaborative urbanism takes their concept a step further; not only is collaborative consumption reshaping how we consume, it is transforming how we interact with each other and the spaces around us. In other words, it is changing how we live in cities.
Here are three examples of collaborative consumption cited by the authors that are at the forefront of collaborative urbanism:
Bike Sharing 2.0
Bike sharing systems such as B-Cycle and Bixi are great but the start-up and maintenance costs are high. Social Bicycles (SoBi) uses mobile technologies and a secure lock system that can attach to existing bikes at a third of the cost of traditional systems. According to founder Ryan Rzepecki, “SoBi could become a new form of personalized public transportation that changes the way people move through cities.” [emphasis added]
Peer-to-Peer Car Sharing
Zipcar brought the idea of car sharing to the mainstream. However, it still introduces new cars when there are millions already sitting idle on the streets, parking lots and driveways for much of the day. Peer-to-peer car sharing enables owners and renters to use the “idling capacity” of personally owned and underused cars. As RelayRides owner Shelby Clark explains, “This gives the community an affordable transportation option, making it easier to live a car-free lifestyle.”
Group Solar Power
The rapid growth of Groupon has shown the power of consumers banding together for discounts. One Block Off the Grid (1BOG) is applying the same idea to solar power. By using social media to get neighbors to group together they can negotiate massive discounts with trusted providers. Once a group of neighbors get together they are well positioned to work towards for other home and community improvements (such as the bike and car sharing mentioned above).