SXSW Moments: Urban Mobility

The Forrest Four-Cast: June 7, 2019

Hugh Forrest
6 min readJun 7, 2019


Did you miss something at SXSW 2019? Want to relive the magic? Look to this space over the coming weeks for links to video and audio replays of some of the most incredible experiences from this year’s event.

The reality of climate change is finally starting to sink in. And according to a new report from 27 European science academies, this is leading to serious impacts on mental — as well as physical health. In a switch from past election cycles, Democrat voters are now often calling the environment their second most important issue (after healthcare), and the leading candidates are releasing ambitious plans to address pollution, carbon emissions and green energy. One important factor is figuring out how to make urban transportation systems work better and more sustainably for citizens. SXSW 2019 took a look at a wide variety of ambitious ideas, from electric vehicles to cycling and “heli-cars,” and pressed the urgency of taking bold and immediate steps.

Featured Session: The Future of Urban Transportation
David Estrada, Chief Policy Officer of Bird, Josh Rasmussen, CEO of Monday Motorbikes, and NYU Assistant Professor Sarah Kaufman discuss the accelerating evolution of urban transportation. They cover micro-mobility, lightweight electric vehicles, transportation adoption by age and gender demographics, and predictions for the future of urban transportation.

How to Make More People Ride Bikes in Cities
Facing growing pollution and traffic jams, cities are expanding efforts to achieve more sustainable and efficient ways for people to get around. Most efforts to increase biking in cities focus on infrastructure improvements or bike-sharing solutions. While these are important aspects, they ignore human-centric aspects of bike adoption. Investments and initiatives should take into consideration the triggers and inhibitors of peoples’ willingness to use a bike in the city for maximum results. Taking a behavioral economics study in Berlin and San Diego as a basis, this session provides recommendations on how to make more people ride bikes.

Urban Aerial Mobility: Closer Than You Think
The economics of aerospace are changing, with entrepreneurs leading the charge in new products including eVTOL (electric vertical takeoff and landing). There are nearly 50 “flying car” companies in the world today, some of which have secured hundreds of millions in funding. Uber’s foray with Elevate and NASA’s plans for a Grand Challenge have opened the door for pioneers to accelerator the adoption of urban aerial mobility. Learn how soon before the public can fly in an electric heli-car.

Survival of the Fittest: Mobility in Cities
Cleaner air. Quieter streets. Shared access to electric vehicles. Cost-effective, driverless transportation options. These things excite urban dwellers and inspire the best city leaders to push for transportation solutions that will enable healthy and happy urban living. On the other hand, preferential treatment for car owners, dismissal of a multi-modal transportation ecosystems, and archaic parking and transit systems widen the attainability gap for most city inhabitants, damage a municipality’s ability to attract citizens, harm the environment and threaten the health of a region’s economy. Experts in transportation and government discuss what’s working well, what’s left to be done and who’s being left behind.

Dockless: The First and Final Mile
In an age where technology is evolving rapidly, discover how Washington, D.C. is on the cutting-edge of adapting the latest transportation technology to fuel economic growth. As a leader in dockless transportation, the city is working with innovative companies, including LimeBikes and Mobility Labs, to shape the future of transportation, solve the age-old dilemma of the first and final mile and increase mobility and connectivity for all.

Transportation at a Crossroads
Transportation is the latest sector to be disrupted by Silicon Valley-style innovation. New technologies and business models promise to make the transportation system safer, more efficient, and accessible. How can federal investments augment private sector innovation and address potential market failures? This discussion with the U.S. Department of Transportation covers how the Agency’s is evolving to harness the promise of new technologies.

Kids Before Cars: Safe, Sustainable Urbanization
Safe, healthy cities start with safe, healthy streets. Roads are the veins through which the health of our society flows, but we are clogging them with traffic jams. And road traffic injuries are the leading killer of adolescents worldwide. In an increasingly urbanized and motorized world, prioritizing people over cars and children over high speeds saves lives and money. Unsafe roads prevent access to education, healthcare and economic opportunities that can lift families out poverty. It does not have to be this way. We can achieve a world with zero road fatalities, creating safe and healthy journeys for all children through data driven, cost-effective choices.

Cities: How to Keep Them Moving
People are wired to be connected. We need to move; sometimes through necessity but often through choice. Why do people move? What do they want? The need to transition to a new era of mobility is more important than ever as our cities become increasingly clogged. But to succeed, we need to appeal to both hearts and minds. This session, led by Carlos M. Bhola, will focus on understanding the needs of citizens, communities and municipal authority and how to build a sustainable, safe alternative form of urban mobility. Bhola is co-founder of LMTS SCA, a technology firm focused on delivering innovative mobility solutions to consumers globally.

Unlocking the Future of Transportation with Open Data
Can open data make our transportation system more efficient? Recent graduate and new adult Charlie Henry is passionate about harnessing data to understand and improve the world around him. As an intern at the Austin Transportation Department, he worked to manage and publish transportation-related data to the city’s open data portal. Last summer, he created a transportation data blog where he uses open data to help solve mobility-related problems around Austin.

More Memories from SXSW 2019
Change is Coming
It’s Time for Sports!
Saving the Ocean
Military Matters
Women’s Health
Social Media Power
Telling New Media Stories
Marvel’s Magic
Future Health
May the Fourth
Women in Tech
Growing Unicorns
Thriving at Work
Making a Difference
Fighting Fake News
Disaster Response
Hacking Democracy
Pete Buttigieg
Kara Swisher
Arlan Hamilton

Do these audio recordings inspire you to get involved in a SXSW session next year? Enter your forward-thinking speaking proposal for March 2020 via the SXSW PanelPicker. Speaking proposals for next year’s event are accepted via this interface from July 1 through July 19.

Hugh Forrest serves as Chief Programming Officer at SXSW, the world’s most unique gathering of creative professionals. He also tries to write at least four paragraphs per day on Medium. These posts often cover tech-related trends; other times they focus on books, pop culture, sports and other current events.



Hugh Forrest

Celebrating creativity at SXSW. Also, reading reading reading, the Boston Red Sox, good food, exercise when possible and sleep sleep sleep.