In the dynamic realm of urban transportation, one concept takes center stage: micromobility. Despite facing economic headwinds last year, the micromobility industry continued to gain momentum, steadily increasing its ridership. Now, it stands at a crossroads, poised for unparalleled growth and transformation. The burning question that lingers in the minds of transportation experts and researchers is this: will the coming year usher in a wave of challenges or a surge of unprecedented expansion?
As Wei Fan, the director of the Center for Advanced Multimodal Mobility Solutions and Education at the University of North Carolina in Charlotte, predicts, “We are on the brink of witnessing a remarkable surge in micromobility adoption, encompassing both ownership and shared services.” However, for this growth to materialize, cities must confront critical issues related to accessibility and infrastructure. Simultaneously, it’s imperative to educate the public about the myriad benefits of micromobility, not only for environmental sustainability but also for their personal finances.
While there is a lot to learn, exciting prospects and potential hurdles that lie ahead for the future of the micromobility industry, and urban transportation.
The Micromobility Revolution Unveiled
Micromobility, a term often used to describe compact, eco-friendly modes of transportation, has captured the imagination of urban dwellers seeking efficient, sustainable, and cost-effective mobility solutions.
It encompasses a spectrum of transportation options that can include electric scooters, e-bikes, shared bicycles, e-mopeds, and more. The hallmark of micromobility lies in its ability to address the “last-mile problem” — bridging the gap between public transit and final destinations.
The year 2022 saw a remarkable surge in micromobility ridership. A confluence of factors, including rising environmental consciousness, a global semiconductor shortage, and escalating fuel prices, accelerated the adoption of micromobility solutions. The stage was set for a transformational year in 2023, with industry experts and researchers foreseeing an exponential increase in ownership and usage. Businesses even jumped on board, utilizing outside companies to provide options for micromobility benefits for their employees.
To comprehend the meteoric rise of the micromobility market, it is essential to dissect the driving forces propelling this transportation revolution.
At the forefront of micromobility’s appeal is its alignment with the global push for sustainability. As cities grapple with air pollution and carbon emissions, micromobility offers a cleaner, greener alternative to traditional gas-powered vehicles. The collective environmental conscience of consumers is driving the shift towards these eco-friendly modes of transportation.
The semiconductor shortage of recent years, impacting various industries, played an unexpected role in micromobility’s ascent. As major automakers faced production delays, consumers turned to micromobility solutions. The industry’s heavy reliance on technology, including electric propulsion and mobile apps for rentals, also contributed to its growth.
Rising fuel costs have made traditional car ownership an expensive proposition. In contrast, micromobility offers an economical and practical alternative. Consumers are increasingly drawn to the affordability and convenience of e-scooters and e-bikes, especially for short daily commutes, or utilizing rideshare companies to get them where they need to be— for less than the cost of filling their tanks.
The electrification trend has pervaded the world of transportation, and micromobility is no exception. Electric scooters and bikes have surged in popularity, promising both riders and investors significant opportunities to increase access and profitability.
E-bikes have experienced a meteoric rise in sales. Their electric-assist capabilities make commuting easier and more enjoyable, attracting a diverse range of riders. Initiatives like Denver’s e-bike rebate program, which provides substantial savings to residents, exemplify the concerted efforts to encourage e-bike adoption.
The growth of electric vehicles (EVs) has prompted cities to expand electric vehicle charging infrastructure. Forward-thinking cities are now considering the inclusion of charging stations for micromobility devices within their infrastructure plans. Samantha Herr, executive director of the North American Bikeshare & Scootershare Association, emphasizes the importance of this integration for the continued expansion of micromobility.
As more consumers, employers, and even the government get on board with micromobility, it’s essential that we understand the challenges and array of opportunities that come along with this technology.
Like other industries, shared micromobility companies experienced a tumultuous year, grappling with recession fears, inflation, and regulatory obstacles. The era of abundant venture capital funding appears to be waning, leading companies to prioritize profitability over innovation.
Despite these challenges faced by shared providers, the appeal of micromobility has grown significantly. David King, an associate professor of urban planning at Arizona State University, notes that consumers are increasingly opting to purchase their own scooters or e-bikes. This shift underscores the enduring demand for micromobility solutions, even in the face of economic uncertainty.
Cities play a pivotal role in shaping the micromobility landscape. The decisions made by city leaders can profoundly impact the accessibility and sustainability of these transportation solutions.
To alleviate growing pains, many cities are moving towards creating “more stable environments” for micromobility providers and residents. Alex Engel, senior communications manager at the National Association of City Transportation Officials, suggests that cities may limit the number of providers or focus on public-private partnerships to ensure a balanced ecosystem.
Accessibility remains a key concern, as the past few years have witnessed a rapid increase in micromobility trip prices. Strategies to manage these pressures and maintain affordability are crucial, especially for underserved communities that may rely on micromobility options.
Safe infrastructure is the linchpin of micromobility’s success. Without adequate infrastructure, sustained growth and ridership will remain elusive.Creating safe spaces for micromobility on roads is paramount. Samantha Herr highlights the need for “actually creating safe spaces on the roads for people to ride.” David King echoes this sentiment, emphasizing that infrastructure improvements are essential for sustained growth.
Wei Fan, director of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte’s Center for Advanced Multimodal Mobility Solutions and Education, envisions a future where cities shift away from car-dominated mindsets. This transformation involves reallocating resources, including roads and parking spaces, to accommodate infrastructure such as protected bike lanes.
However, it’s important to note that micromobility adoption may not follow a uniform pattern across all regions. David King suggests that certain areas, like college campuses, may excel in micromobility adoption, while suburban areas may face more challenges. Even sustained investment in safe infrastructure may not entirely dislodge suburban drivers from their cars.
The micromobility revolution is well underway, and its future appears brighter than ever. As we gaze into the horizon of 2023, the micromobility market promises exponential growth, increased investment opportunities, and a sustainable alternative to traditional transportation.
The forces driving micromobility’s rise are undeniable, and the strategies outlined herein offer a roadmap for a sustainable, accessible, and prosperous future in the world of micromobility. It’s time to embrace and get on board with this innovative industry that will shape urban transportation for years to come.
For more information on innovative solutions in urban transportation and sustainable mobility, schedule a meeting with us today and we’ll be happy to discuss our micromobility program with you.