Micro-mobility for Better Cities
The streets are flooded with bikes and e-scooters. Are we dealing with an issue or a solution?
Urban cycling is ever-growing and enjoyed by many but hated by others, especially among drivers and pedestrians. Now we also have the e-scooters endangering pedestrians, blocking sidewalks, and running red lights. Each city responds differently. Are we dealing with another issue or a solution?
Whether it is a classic pedal bike, e-bike, or e-scooter, they are all part of micro-mobility. Yes, they can easily inconvenience or even endanger pedestrians and drivers. On the other hand, if done right, it leads to safer roads, fewer congestions, less spending, cleaner air that we breathe, and healthier citizens overall.
It can be done right; Netherlands, Denmark, France, and Austria are just some of the countries with the successful integration of micro-mobility that we can learn from. Before they could reap the benefits of cleaner air, less congestion, safer roads, and healthier citizens, they had to build proper infrastructure and introduce a clear set of extensively enforced rules.
We Have to Improve the Traffic
People are flooding into cities by millions. By 2050, 89.2% of the U.S. population will live in cities. Sadly, most cities still don’t have developed sustainable transport.
Traffic congestions cost the U.S. 1-3% of the country’s GDP. Seven million people worldwide die each year due to bad air quality, and 1.5 million are killed in vehicle accidents. If the loss of lives isn’t alarming enough, the road fatalities cost the U.S. $100 billion per year.
If applied properly, micro-mobility can help drastically reduce congestion, carbon emissions, waste of city space, and even accidents. It improves the health of citizens through exercise and better air quality. Furthermore, it helps them become more connected with their city as well as with each other.
Bike-share and Scooter-share
The introduction of bike-share played the main role in the rise of micro-mobility in urban areas. The first bike-sharing had started in Europe in the 60s but wasn’t long-lived as it quickly became the target of theft and vandalism.
The bike-share went through many changes over the years. The theft and vandalism went down. Now the bikes and scooters are equipped with GPS trackers, and we can easily rent them via an app or in some cities, even with a transit card.
It is pretty much over for the dock-less pedal bikes in the U.S. except for Seattle. While the number of docked bike stations kept growing, most of the dock-less pedal bike vendors in the U.S had pivoted towards e-bikes and e-scooters.
Micro-mobility might seem like a simple solution. It’s not. Scooters are a great example that this is not exactly a plug-and-play solution. If done improperly, it can turn into something that only adds to accidents, clutters sidewalks, and endangers drivers and pedestrians alike.
Since their introduction, the e-scooters got restricted or even banned in many cities. I, too, had to jump out of the way of an e-scooter speeding through the sidewalk several times already. E-bikes can be dangerous as well; some can go well over 20 miles per hour which can result in a serious injury in case of collision.
When comparing e-scooters, pedal bikes, and e-bikes, you are by far most likely to have an accident on an e-scooter. The second are pedal bikes, and the last are e-bikes. While concussions are also the most frequent on scooters, you are most likely to have an internal injury on an e-bike.
The scooters are promoted as an ecological solution. This is not entirely true. They are nowhere near as ecological as a bike due to their short lifespan. Several companies work on improving their lifespan and thus their ecological value. Nevertheless, it is still better for the environment and traffic than driving a car.
Now I am not dissing scooters or bikes. I firmly believe that we are in dire need of more sustainable transportation, and micro-mobility is it.
How to Do It Right
Micro-mobility can really help with many of the serious problems faced by growing cities, but it has to be done right. The issue isn’t with the product but rather with the infrastructure and regulations; or the lack of it.
With micro-mobility, we can save great amounts of finances on congestions, accidents, and health care in general as citizens will be more fit and everyone will breathe cleaner air. But first, it does need an investment of both time and resources.
Bike lanes are necessary to reduce congestion and increase safety successfully. The traffic rules for bikes and e-scooters must be clear and thoroughly enforced to prevent riders from endangering themselves and others. These regulations include speed limits and clearly defined areas of use. Also, clear parking rules are necessary. This is not such an issue with docked bikes but is a frequent problem with e-scooters or dockless bikes. One of the possible solutions is making dedicated parking spots.
The misconduct has to be properly addressed and penalized in order for micro-mobility to be truly effective and not counterproductive.
Most people want to be healthy and ecological, and many cities successfully encourage this. Still, if there is no proper infrastructure and set of rules enforced by authorities, it can easily backfire and add to accidents and public outrage.
It Can Work
The ridership in cities has been steadily rising and is fully expected to return to the trend in the post-pandemic U.S. People flock into cities in millions, which creates many complex issues for cities and states. The congested traffic, accidents, air pollution, and unhealthy lifestyle are just a fraction of it, but micro-mobility can drastically elevate these particular problems if executed properly. However, just introducing your city to bike or e-scooter share is not enough. To truly solve a problem and not just add to it, adequate infrastructure is necessary, as well as an actively enforced set of rules. We can’t afford to do things half-heartedly.
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