Micromobility: Getting E-round

Smart Communication

Micromobility: Getting E-round

E-bikes are all the rage, but increasingly they are being joined by growing fleets of e-scooters. For urban planners, new forms of on-demand micromobility are increasingly being viewed as a quick way to reduce congestion in the inner cities.

by Marcel Weiss

For urban residents this means more options to get them selves around the city. Being able to use light vehicles to get from A to B, picking them up and parking them wherever one pleases, makes this mobility mode a convenient option. However, it also provides challenges.

Today’s city infrastructures are first and foremost built for cars. Single person two-wheelers offer lots of advantages over cars – for one thing, they are much smaller. In congested traffic, they are usually a lot faster and they are better for the health of a city’s inhabitants because they produce less pollution.

But e-bikes and e-scooters are being tacked onto an infrastructure that wasn’t built for them. This mismatch keeps them from realizing their full potential. Analyst Horace Dediu, who coined the term “micromobility” for vehicles below 500 kg, expects the concept to be adopted by up to 80 percent of cities worldwide within the next ten years.

So how can city authorities jump on the bandwagon? On-demand mobility, micro or not, requires sophisticated mobile apps powered by GPS and the Internet. This allows service providers to collect transportation data on a whole new scale. Pooled information can give urban planners a wide range of new insights into how and where to build, or optimize, roads and parking spaces and even where to expand public transport and develop housing and commercial buildings.

One of the primary promises of IoT is to constantly connect objects with the Internet in order to better understand complex systems and linkages. In the case of urban development, this is already underway with sensors providing weather and air pollution data with great precision on an increasingly local scale. Now the same thing is happening with mobility.

Getting the data

Micromobility initiatives are springing up around the globe. In the US, Detroit in Michigan, Omaha in Nebraska, and Montgomery County in Maryland are working together to build a framework to obtain data from shared mobility services. These cities are sharing best practices to eventually build a new national regulatory model.

Micromobility - Rideshare Montgomery County

Forget Uber: Montgomery County plans to test an app-based system that will allow riders to request a ride through the Via app on an 11-passenger shuttle.

Data sharing is often mandated for start-ups wishing to get a foot in the door. Even smaller communities such as East Lansing in Michigan have successfully made that demand, thanks to fierce competition in the mobility sector.

Already, start-ups are providing data platforms to mediate between mobility services and cities. In California, Los Angeles, which is building a new standard for sharing mobility data, is cooperating with Remix, a young tech company based in San Francisco that offers data and planning tools for public transportation organizations. Detroit, Omaha, and Charlotte work with Passport, whose mobility software platform enables real-time, digital coordination of all modes of transportation to manage its curbside and street space. Washington DC uses a product called Populus Mobility Manager.

Micromobility does not ask for more, Dediu says – it asks for less: less money, less energy, less pollution, less pavement, less parking, and less congestion. In return it gives more: more health and longer, more meaningful lives for citizens.

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