The Micro-Mobility Revolution

By Regina Clewlow, Ph.D.

Regina Clewlow is the CEO & Founder of Populus, a data platform that helps private mobility operators and cities deliver safer, more efficient streets. Dr. Clewlow has over a decade of experience in transportation, where she is a leading expert on innovations in public transit, shared mobility, and autonomous vehicles.

Aug 8, 2018 | Mobility | 2 comments


Who will you meet?

Cities are innovating, companies are pivoting, and start-ups are growing. Like you, every urban practitioner has a remarkable story of insight and challenge from the past year.

Meet these peers and discuss the future of cities in the new Meeting of the Minds Executive Cohort Program. Replace boring virtual summits with facilitated, online, small-group discussions where you can make real connections with extraordinary, like-minded people.


 

In the spring of 2018, many U.S. cities experienced the latest wave of transportation innovation for urban mobility: the introduction of shared electric scooter services.

Since the initial launch of private ride-hailing services (e.g. Uber, Lyft), the transportation ecosystem has experienced significant change. In many ways the public sector has been caught off guard by the rapid introduction of these new services, finding itself in a difficult position without access to information to help guide policy and planning decisions.

At Populus, we believe that more frequent access to data and information can help both private and public transportation services work more seamlessly together. With information and transparency, the public sector can develop policies and plan infrastructure that better integrates private sector investments in urban mobility — improving transportation for everyone. Building on several decades of transportation expertise at MIT, UC Berkeley, and in the service of leading public agencies, the Populus team provides cities and private mobility operators with data and analytics to facilitate a safe, equitable, and efficient transition to the future of urban mobility.

This month, we are excited to release The Micro-Mobility Revolution, our report on micro-mobility services (e.g., shared bikes and electric scooter services), with a particular focus on the rapid adoption of electric scooters in late 2017 and early 2018. Our findings, based on data from over 7,000 individuals across 10 major U.S. major regions from May to July 2018, focuses on three key results:

  1. The adoption of micro-mobility services
  2. Perceptions of electric scooters: do people generally want them in cities?
  3. Transportation equity

 

The Rapid Adoption of Electric Scooters in U.S. Cities

Although commercial shared electric scooter services have been available in U.S. cities for less than 12 months (less than 5 months in most markets), a remarkably large number of people (3.6%) report having used them. While there is variation across cities, as compared with the adoption of prior mobility services the overall number of people who have adopted electric scooters in such a short period of time is pretty remarkable.

Based on our analysis and the limited academic research on the adoption of other mobility services, the adoption rates of mobility services overall has accelerated significantly over the past decade(see Fig. 1.) There are several key factors that have facilitated a more rapid rate of adoption for micro-mobility: 1) the widespread proliferation of GPS-enabled smartphones has more than doubled over the past decade; 2) traffic congestion in most U.S. cities is increasing and it can be faster to travel short distances of 3 miles or less using a bike or scooter; 3) the amount of private financing of micro-mobility has fueled the supply of these services — which has led to faster adoption.

 

Figure 1. Mobility services adoption curves.

 

The Majority of People Welcome Electric Scooters in Cities

Based on our large-scale, representative sampling across the cities featured in this report, we find that a majority of people (70%) view electric scooters positively: that they expand transportation options, enable a car-free lifestyle, are a convenient replacement for short trips in a personal vehicle or ride-hailing service (i.e. Uber, Lyft), and are a complement to public transit.

 

 

While further analysis of micro-mobility services is essential to guide transportation planning and policy decisions, overall, initial data analyzed from the Populus platform suggests that the vast majority of people want them in cities.

Our data illustrated some variation in public opinion. In particular, San Francisco stood out as an outlier with the lowest amount of public support, although overall a majority of people (52%) view them positively. There are a number of complex reasons (mostly relating to housing and concerns about gentrification) that may influence the lower rates of support in San Francisco. A key takeaway from our study is that the policies, regulations, utilization rates, and attitudes of San Francisco may not translate to other U.S. cities.

 

 

Electric Scooters Attract a More Diverse Group of Users

While prior station-based, non-electric bikeshare services have predominantly been used by men by a factor of 2x to 3x, this new study suggests that electric scooters may enjoy more support and adoption by women. Our analysis of publicly available docked bikeshare data in the U.S. shows that 75% of trips are made by men, and 25% by women. This is not the fault of the providers, but rather it reflects a failure of the United States to invest in bike- and pedestrian-friendly infrastructure.

There is currently greater gender parity in early electric scooter adoption; we share a few theories supported by academic research on why that might be the case in our full report.

 

If U.S. cities can harness this new wave of interest in micro-mobility to improve bike and scooter infrastructure, they might make progress on closing the active transportation gender gap. Cities where women feel comfortable and safe riding bikes and scooters on the streets are ultimately cities that are safer for everyone.

Our data also suggests that dockless electric scooters may also enjoy higher adoption rates by lower-income groups. Given that much has been written on the equity challenges of publicly-funded docked bikeshare systems, many have suggested that dockless micro-mobility could offer cities an opportunity to expand access to those who need it the most.

 

Conclusions

The explosion of electric scooter services in the United States in 2018 took many by surprise — both in the public and private sectors. While many cities are working to determine how to develop policies and frameworks for managing this latest wave of transportation innovation, our study presents independent analysis on the adoption and perceptions of electric scooters to help guide mobility strategies.

Without data, the public sector will struggle to craft effective transportation policies and plans that can help them achieve their goals of safety, equity, and efficiency as new private mobility technologies continue to evolve. However, with cooperation and access to data for monitoring progress towards public goals, cities have the opportunity to harness new private investments in mobility for a better transportation future.

Download Full Report

 

Discussion

Leave your comment below, or reply to others.

Please note that this comment section is for thoughtful, on-topic discussions. Admin approval is required for all comments. Your comment may be edited if it contains grammatical errors. Low effort, self-promotional, or impolite comments will be deleted.

2 Comments

  1. I ride an electric scooter and feel that they should be allowed on side walks with a 5 mph speed limit in areas where safe bike lanes are not present. Pushing scooters onto the streets in metro areas is very dangerous!! I will not ride with cars!! Dave

    Reply
  2. Maybe we could make streets safer for scooters, cyclists, and pedestrians? There’s lots of peer-reviewed research evidence that there is safety in numbers.

    Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Read more from MeetingoftheMinds.org

Spotlighting innovations in urban sustainability and connected technology

The Pandemic, Inequality, Housing Affordability, and Urban Land

The Pandemic, Inequality, Housing Affordability, and Urban Land

Since the Great Recession of 2008, the housing wealth gap has expanded to include not just Black and Brown Americans, but younger White Americans as well. Millennials and Generation Z Whites are now joining their Black and Brown peers in facing untenable housing precarity and blocked access to wealth. With wages stuck at 1980 levels and housing prices at least double (in inflation adjusted terms) what they were 40 years ago, many younger Americans, most with college degrees, are giving up on buying a home and even struggle to rent apartments suitable for raising a family.

What makes it hard for policy people and citizens to accept this truth is that we have not seen this problem in a very long time. Back in the 1920s of course, but not really since then. But this is actually an old problem that has come back to haunt us; a problem first articulated by Adam Smith in the 1700s.

Multi-modal Transit and the Public Realm

Multi-modal Transit and the Public Realm

More than ever, urban transit services are in need of sustainable and affordable solutions to better serve all members of our diverse communities, not least among them, those that are traditionally car-dependent. New mobility technologies can be a potential resource for local transit agencies to augment multi-modal connectivity across existing transit infrastructures.

We envision a new decentralized and distributed model that provides multi-modal access through nimble and flexible multi-modal Transit Districts, rather than through traditional, centralized, and often too expensive Multi-modal Transit Hubs. Working in collaboration with existing agencies, new micro-mobility technologies could provide greater and seamless access to existing transit infrastructure, while maximizing the potential of the public realm, creating an experience that many could enjoy beyond just catching the next bus or finding a scooter. So how would we go about it?

Cross Sectoral Partnerships Can Fight Human Trafficking

Cross Sectoral Partnerships Can Fight Human Trafficking

Dedicated anti-trafficking actors across the nation are trying to build better systems in big jurisdictions like New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, and in smaller but scrappy jurisdictions like Waco, Texas and Boaz, Alabama. They all share the same need, for stronger interconnectedness as an anti-trafficking field, and more collaboration.

The Forging Freedom Portal is a one-stop shop where a police officer planning a victim-centered operation can connect with their law enforcement counterparts, and the right service providers ahead of time, collaborating to make sure they’re planning for the language skills, social services, and legal support that victims may need. The portal is a place where the people who care most about ending human trafficking, who are doing the hard work every day on the ground, can learn from each other and share best practices to raise the collective standard of this work.

The Future of Cities

Mayors, planners, futurists, technologists, executives and advocates — hundreds of urban thought leaders publish on Meeting of the Minds. Sign up below to follow the future of cities.

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Wait! Before You Leave —

Wait! Before You Leave —

Subscribe to receive updates on the Executive Cohort Program!

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Share This