E-scooters are sustainable and efficient, presenting environmental benefits. But there are a few hurdles: they must replace cars instead of bikes or walking, cities must embrace infrastructure that encourages micromobility, and scooters can’t be thrown all over the city.
A micromobility future for cities
Early lessons learned in cities are that static and inflexible rules-based regulation often cannot keep pace with such a young and fast-moving sector. Applied too rigidly, measures such as caps on scooter numbers — or in some cases, outright bans — can be counterproductive, restricting the spread of services and denying users access to the benefits available.
Making the transition to a sustainable scenario where micromobility meets the needs of cities, providers and users, depends on establishing a more supportive regulatory framework — one that is agile and flexible enough to keep the ride under control without bringing it to a juddering halt.
Dynamic regulation responds to data based on key performance measures, and is implemented through a series of incentives for good performance and penalties for underachievement. For instance, rather than a fixed cap on fleet size, a city might stipulate a flexible limit based on the number of rides per scooter per day. As demand rises, more scooters can be released, and as it falls they can be removed again. This allows for maximum accessibility with minimum disruption.
Both cities and providers need to start working together, sharing data and collaborating more closely on service provision and partnerships with public transport providers, and building adaptive infrastructure to meet future needs — around parking and safe use in particular.
Here are three actions to consider:
1. Gain from advanced data-sharing platforms
Bridging the data gap is the vital first step on the road to dynamic regulation. The German city of Hamburg is running a pilot program with Wunder Mobility, based on usage data provided by the city’s four active e-scooter providers. The result is a data dashboard that generates insights into the location, number and duration of scooter rides in the city. It is already helping the authorities to manage overall fleet numbers and distribution, to identify service gaps, and to manage scooter parking more effectively.
Data also can help inform better decisions on which providers to license. Cities faced with 10 or more providers, all of which appear to be very similar from the outside, often resort to giving permission to all in the hope that the “best” providers will emerge through the action of market forces. Using data to help short-list the most appropriate providers — by route, sustainability criteria, cost and so on — would create better outcomes for cities, users and providers alike.
2. Partner to increase urban intermodality
As micromobility matures as a sector, there is a growing responsibility on providers to make the shift from operating as discrete stand-alone services and become fully integrated parts of existing public and shared mobility networks.
Voi’s partnership with the suburban rail operator Hamburger Hochbahn aims to expand the usage of e-scooters beyond Hamburg town center. Scooters are at central and selected suburban rail stations, and users who have taken the train are offered discounts and other incentives to use scooters.
3. Create adaptive infrastructure solutions
Streets must be adapted to accommodate micromobility in designed and controlled ways. Insights from shared data also feed into decisions about adaptive infrastructure.
A single, standard-sized car parking bay can accommodate up to 20 e-scooters, so converting car parking space into e-scooter parking zones can simultaneously boost micromobility usage and discourage car driving. Automatic speed restrictions can help scooters safely share pavements and cycle paths with other users. And geofenced “no-go” areas can address pedestrian concerns over inappropriate scooter use. These can be permanent and location-based or temporary.
The path to a sustainable future
This new environment will be based on shared data, a real understanding of the lifetime impact of scooter services, aligned goals and much greater collaboration between city authorities and providers.
It’s not a journey that can be made in a single step, and there will be plenty more mistakes along the way. But with the right support frameworks in place, e-scooters can provide a real contribution to making our cities cleaner, quieter, more accessible and enjoyable — and, perhaps most important of all, more sustainable places to live.
As cities around the world strive to create a more sustainable urban transport system, micromobility has emerged as a key element of a multi-modal urban mobility transportation ecosystem. As it matures and becomes more mainstream, the micromobility user base will expand and help to reduce car use within cities. To realize the benefits both cities and providers need to start working together, sharing data and collaborating more closely on service provision and partnerships with public transport providers, and building adaptive infrastructure to meet future needs.