The Economical and Eco-Friendly Future of Mobility
The US Department of Transportation talks about micromobility as an expanding, popular form of transportation. Micromobility has rapidly proliferated in cities nationwide, proving to be a popular transportation option for many users. In response to the increasing demand for walking and bicycling facilities in cities and towns across the country, many jurisdictions are exploring micromobility as an alternative mode for short trips and active transportation.
If you are not familiar with micromobility, all you must do is look around any big city to find bicycles, e-bikes, electric scooters, and shared bicycles used around town. There is a high demand for single-occupant riders in highly populated urban areas. This mode of transportation offers a lower cost and a more personalized way of getting around, fit for individual needs.
Benefits of Micromobility
The first and most obvious benefit of micromobility is the reduced pollution from these electric vehicles. The smaller, electric forms of transportation that are gaining popularity are making a positive impact on the environment.
A very close second benefit is the cost. Scooters and ebikes are not only cheaper to purchase than cars, but also cheaper to maintain and store. This provides an opportunity to own or rent personal transportation to a whole new demographic of people who could not afford to own a more traditional form of transportation.
Another benefit is a selling point for anyone who commutes and has spent time sitting bumper to bumper in gridlock. Skipping rush hour, and traffic in general, can speed up some commute times and make them fast and more efficient than driving. In some cases, a 40-minute bus commute can be shortened to 8 or 9 minutes.
Like anything, there is always room for improvement. There are several issues that need addressed to make micromobility options available for everyone. For example, it is often dependent on fair weather. Most New Yorkers would likely skip riding an ebike in January with the cold and ice on the sidewalk. The same could be said for Floridians commuting during a summer rainstorm.
There are also concerns about safety. A study by the CDC found that for every 100,000 e-scooter trips, 20 individuals incur an injury and head injuries topped the list of accident-related incidents at 45%.
Another problem many large cities are facing right now is organizing and storing all the different vehicles provided by multiple vendors. Each organization must coordinate to follow local guidelines and regulations and many cities are currently facing issues with scooters and ebikes, without docking stations, littering the sidewalks.
Transit deserts, in underserved communities, will be the first areas who see a true socioeconomic benefit from micromobility options. Junfeng Jiao, director of the Urban Information Lab at the University of Texas-Austin estimates 4.5 million Americans live in a transit dessert. These communities have a limited public and private transportation supply which negatively impact the residents’ access to healthcare, work, and food. This only enhances the inequality that already exists in these neighborhoods.
Using scooters, mopeds and ebikes could help residents easily gain access to bus stops too far to walk to. It could provide reliable transportation to work, school and to the doctor’s office bridging the transportation gap for many neighborhoods.
The Pandemic Effect
Not many industries had an increase in business during the pandemic shut down. As mass transportation shut down or decreased capacity during social distancing, ebikes and scooters had a dramatic increase in popularity. Q1 sales for ebikes in 2021 rose 86.3% and North American sales of ebikes are expected to grow 11% a year through 2028.
Micromobility options also appeal to the 6 feet apart protocol. While crowded buses and subways or even ride share options put individuals in close proximity with others, ebikes and scooters allow for riders to maintain social distancing. Since they operate outside, and not in an enclosed space, this is another level of protection against Covid-19 exposure.
As cities across the world reopen with busses and subways running pre-pandemic schedules, micromobility options are still growing. With their popularity, innovation in the market is brining future ideas to fruition. Cargo ebikes are being tested to see if they can help alleviate traffic congestion with assuredly more testing options to come.
Looking to the Future
Currently, micromobility is a developing form of transportation. Not many would consider it to be the primary way they travel or commute but that could change soon. As our economy and workforce evolve after the COVID Pandemic, so does our daily routine. Lengthy commutes to the office are not the norm which could mean city residents trade in their car for a more economical moped or scooter.
How would having access to different forms of micromobility change your life and the way you travel?