Shared micro-mobility is constantly evolving. To help you make sense of one the hottest topics in urban mobility, we’ve dug deep into the key trends and developments in the realm of shared bicycles, scooters, and other small vehicles. Here are our takeaways.
One of the most popular birthday gifts for many in the early 2000’s, the folding Razor scooter, captured the heart of a generation. Fast forward two decades and we see that both the original users, and the technology have grown up a bit. Now capable of speeds that should concern any reasonable parent, the electrified and shareable version of this cul-de-sac hero is now reshaping the world of micro-mobility and has incredible potential to address some of today’s biggest transportation issues.
What is shared micro-mobility?
Shared micro-mobilities come in many forms from heavy city bikes to e-scooters to futuristic three wheelers. But by definition, a shared micro-mobility device is any light-weight vehicle designed to transport a single person, which can be rented short term, usually through a mobile application.
Despite being viewed as touristy by some, and a public menace by others, the potential of micro-mobility to address contemporary transportation issues is undeniable given its benefits:
- Flexible and relatively affordable
- Socially distanced
- Environmentally friendly (if its replacing car trips)
- An effective supplement to public transportation
What kinds of systems exist today?
In short, many! Across North America’s 224 systems (as of present time), no two systems are exactly the same.
At this point just about any major city worth its salt already has a micro-mobility system, and many have doubled down on its projected usefulness by making plans to expand their offerings.
Shared Systems in the 25 Largest US Metros
- 21 of the 25 largest metropolitan areas offered e-bikes and traditional pedal bikes, and some cities and towns are transitioning towards e-bikes only.
- 17 of the 25 largest metros have shared e-scooter programs.
- 10 out of the 25 largest US metropolitan areas made plans to expand their shared micro-mobility fleets.
What about the tech?
We all probably noticed when e-scooters first came on the scene. But there have been other technological developments, less visible to the public eye, that are having major impacts in the transportation space.
Safety and durability concerns have led to new e-scooters with larger wheels, suspension, and improved braking.
Geofencing technology prevents devices from being ridden or parked in off-limits areas.
Open data policy is allowing mobility as a service platforms to integrate micro-mobility into trip planning software.
How are cities handling micro-mobility?
The introduction of dockless e-scooters and e-bikes was a notorious headache for cities between 2017 and 2018. After companies haphazardly rolled out these devices, often without permission, cities were left scrambling. Across the country, local governments began to respond to scooters and other shared vehicles. The result: a patchwork of policies, varying by location, often ambiguous, and not built on any industry standard.
By now, many cities have operating agreements that govern how shared scooters, and bikes are managed within their limits. These agreements often include:
- The number and types of devices allowed
- Where devices must be deployed
- Parking rules that the operator must enforce
- A policy on data sharing with the city
- A program expiration date, often no longer than 1-2 years
Increased Public Ownership and Integration
Public-private partnerships have become increasingly common in North American micro-mobility, with governments subsidizing and overseeing systems. This sort of symbiotic relationship became even more common in 2020 and may signal a major shift in the way shared micro-mobility will be managed in the future. As more cities take an increasingly active role in shared systems, it is possible that micro-mobility companies could eventually become extensions of public transportation. In fact integration of shared micro-mobility and public transportation has already begun in many locations.
- San Francisco’s Clipper Card, used for public transit payment, has been integrated into the Bay Wheels bike and scooter share system.
- 16% of N. American shared micro-mobility trips were for the purpose of connecting to public transportation
- 50% of users reported using shared micro-mobility to connect to public transportation services.
- Capital Metro has started integrating bike share into Austin’s public transit system.
Whose Bike (or Scooter) is this?
‘Who actually owns/runs this thing?’ It’s a great question considering the shared scooter locked to the rack on your block looks suspiciously similar to the competitor’s model right beside it. The nearly indistinguishable one syllable names like Bird, Scoot, Spin, and Jump don’t help either. Throw in the way some operators brand vehicles differently according to location, plus some mergers and acquisitions, and no wonder it’s tough to keep it all straight!
Acquisitions and Mergers
Why so much flux? This may just be the natural tendency of any emerging market, in which many small companies initially emerge followed by a period of consolidation and refinement (for instance, the number of automobile manufacturers went from 253 in 1908 to less than 50 two decades later).
How to leverage micro-mobility for your commute program
For anyone tasked with managing TDM or commute programs, shared micro-mobility can be a vital tool in getting people out of cars. Here are ways to add micro-mobility into the mix:
- Corporate Partnerships: Some major vendors have begun offering corporate options like Lime’s ‘Corporate Partners Program’, in which companies can subsidize their employees’ use of micro-mobility devices and have them strategically distributed for employee access.
- Subsidies: Offering micro-mobility-specific subsidies to employees as part of a commute incentive program is another great option. Many companies are experimenting with offering public transportation allowances and cash payments to promote commuting in ways other than the private automobile.
- Team up with a vendor and design a private micro-mobility system intended specifically for employees and members. These arrangements can take the form of a business-to-business model, where companies pay vendors directly for the fleet and potentially operational support, and empl
Bikes Make Life Better is dedicated to helping employees at large organizations develop healthy and sustainable transportation. Interested in exploring shared micro-mobility solutions at your workplace? Drop us a line!