Urban sharing: What can we learn from London?

What can we know about the Smart Agendas in London and how can cities learn from it to sustain the environment?

Photo taken from (Swinhoe, 2019).

By 2050, there will be 66% of the world’s population living in cities. With the rapid urbanisation, there are challenges to sustainability. At present, the urban population is contributing 75% of the overall carbon emissions (UNEP, 2013), while cities generate more than 80% of global GDP (Grubler & Fisk, 2013). This means that cities offer socio-economic benefits that can also become a major research centre and education to tackle urban sustainability challenges. In recent years, there are two concepts that have been raised to overcome sustainability challenges, and they are smart cities and sharing economy.

I would like to take London as a a case study to reflect its mode of urban governance and its arrangement in relation to how the city supports urban sharing organisations (USOs) through smart and sustainable agenda programmes which facilitates ICT-enabled technical innovations and emergence of start-ups. London is an ICT-dense city that has developed its collaborative approach towards USOs when governing urban sharing. It has been a while that London has been taken as a test-bed of business model innovation projects and sharing start-ups. So, I will like to explore the idea how local governments in London govern ICT-enabled USOs and what we can learn from it.

In 2013, London has published a smart city agenda, the Smart London Pan (SLP) to improve congestion and air pollution in response to its population growth (GLA, 2016). The plan provides an overview to deliver solutions and the importance to collaborate between different stakeholders to tackle urban challenges. Even though, London has been making efforts to invite the public in designing planning policies, the focus of these agendas have been mainly working through collaborating with businesses to deliver technological innovations. This includes the example of e-road networks and smart congestion charges. Meanwhile, one of the objectives in SLP is to promote start-up scene in London by operating a number of support programmes including online platform for technology start-ups and information and statistics website (Zvolska et al., 2018).

In addition, USOs are included in the plans within the Greater London Authority (GLA) to support innovative start-ups, however they do not have a sharing agenda at present. The majority of the USOs are developed independently, while most of the mobility organisations have been receiving much more financial and technical support from the GLA in relevance to the operation of the Transport for London, which has been heavily involved in the smart mobility plan for London (Zvolska et al., 2018).

London has been investing in shared mobility organisations due to its environmental and social benefits of future, such as their car and bike sharing scheme. In despite that London has taken their decision not to grant new license for Uber to operate, the government acknowledged the potential of car sharing for sustainable urban development (TfL, 2017). The car sharing organisations such as the Zipcar and other car clubs have also gained financial support from the GLA to reduce traffic congestion and air pollution. Another example in London is through their bike sharing and hiring schemes as a major urban development for the city.

London bike-sharing scheme has been supported to offer corporate solutions. Photo taken from (Jacobs, 2017).

The mobility-related USOs tend to attract more attention and support from the local governments in London. Despite the fact that London has taken a pragmatic and collaborative approach on Uber, they have been flexible regarding issues around regulations. The city representatives understand that some USOs will have a positive impact, but the local governments support or regulate USOs decisions separately. Furthermore, there has been some critiques where profit USOs receive support and promotion by the local government, while the non-profits USOs are often left without support (Zvolska et al., 2018). With that said, London has a system that utilised solutions to take advantages of the communication technology to increase mobility efficiencies and the quality of life.

It is obvious that London has an overall structure that is indirectly supporting ICT-enabled urban sharing shown from their smart agenda that aims to facilitate technical innovation. With proper management, USOs are the potentials to contribute to sustainable urban development. Even though, London supports sustainable innovation in their smart agendas to a certain extent, the regulatory action is imbalanced with the policies targeted at USOs that provides the full potential to bring socio-environmental benefits to the city. Therefore, government has the role to reintroduce supportive mechanisms to both large and small USOs than primarily focusing on the economic benefits of larger platforms.

In addition, there is a clear opportunity for improvements if cities are interested to support urban sharing as part of their smart city agendas or to advocate collaboration for a sustainable society. Although, London has mentioned urban sharing in their smart city agendas, they are indirectly supporting USOs as innovations that often lacks the strategic engagement with the USOs. This also raises another question regarding if the smart cities agenda are targeting real urban challenge or is it mainly to drive global economy and entrepreneurship for the country? To achieve this, future research is needed to explore the roles of cities in managing sharing and smart agendas to adhere the principles of environmental sustainability.

Comment below if you’ve gain any value or any other point of view about urban sharing in London!


Greater London Authority. (2016). The Future of Smart: Harnessing digital innovation to make London the best city in the world. London: Greater London Authority.

Grubler, A. & Fisk, D. (2013). Energizing Sustainable Cities: Assessing Urban Energy. London and New York: Routledge.

Jacobs, F. (2017). London bike-share offers corporate solutions, Fleet Europe. Retrieved from April 1, 2020, from https://www.fleeteurope.com/fr/maas-safety-smart-mobility/news/london-bike-share-offers-corporate-solutions?a=FJA05&t%5B0%5D=Santander%20Cycles&curl=1

Swinhoe, D. (2019). What does the NCSC do and how can it help UK enterprises?, CSO. Retrieved from April 1, 2020, from https://www.csoonline.com/article/3505817/what-does-the-ncsc-do-and-how-can-it-help-uk-enterprises.html

Transport for London. (2017). Licensing decision on Uber London Limited. Retrieved from April 1, 2020, from https://tfl.gov.uk/info-for/media/press-releases/2017/september/licensing-decision-on-uber-london-limited

UNEP. (2013). City-Level Decoupling: Urban Resource Flows and the Governance of Infrastructure Transitions. Retrieved from April 1, 2020, from https://www.unenvironment.org/resourcepanel/portals/24102/pdfs/cities-full_report.pdf

Zvolska, L., Lehner, M., Palgan, Y.V., Mont, O. & Plepys, A. (2018). Urban sharing in smart cities: the cases of Berlin and London. Local Environment. 24(7), pp. 628–645.



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