Future of Urban Transport

How will micro mobility redefine the methods of travel?


Transportation plays an essential role in our everyday lives. We all rely on different transportation methods to get to our schools, homes, workplaces, and many other destinations every day. Thus, to be able to grasp the new trends of transportation, we must first understand how human behavior relates to already existing trends. The decision-making process for choosing the mode of transport is not always rational. Personal emotions and perceptions, culture, and social belongings have a rather significant influence on the final judgment. Nevertheless, in general, people prefer safe, comfortable, fast, and cheap experiences of transportation. 


A reasonably notable factor of decision, the pricing, for private vehicles usually ignores external costs such as the time lost due to congestion and the impact on the environment due to greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution. So far, the perceived lower cost of private modes of transportations, primarily cars, has increased private vehicle ownership and led to their dominance as a form of transport. In rural regions, the lack of access creates the primary challenge against mobility. As approximately 91% of all trips (in rural America) are made by car, everyone in these areas relies on private vehicles regardless of age, income, or race. However, with 54% of the world living in urban areas, cities are struggling to meet the transportation requirements of their population, and the number of private vehicles gets fewer and fewer with every generation. According to Vitale et al., Millennials and Gen Z are “more than twice as likely than Gen X and Boomers to question whether they need to own a vehicle and are less willing to buy a car”. 


As people incline away from private car ownership, micro mobility comes into play. The term “micro mobility” describes small and easy-to-carry vehicles that usually have a speed limit of around 25 km/h. The introduction of lithium-ion batteries catalyzed the portable electric energy movement during the 1990s, and vehicles powered by lighter electrical energy began to be developed. What makes these vehicles particularly appealing is that it eliminates the extra costs of private car ownership mentioned above. They have a very low environmental impact as they are emission-free. They don’t contribute to noise pollution as they are designed to be quiet. More significantly, they solve the congestion problems in urban areas since they take up less space both on the move and while parked. 


Micro Mobility vehicles are particularly efficient in traveling short distances, such as connecting public transit or moving within the neighborhood, and they could be used for all passenger trips that take less than 8 km. According to Heineke et al., this would account for 50-60% of all passenger kilometers traveled across the U.S, Europe, and China. In 2018 alone, Americans took 84 million trips by shared micro mobility. By 2030, Heineke et al. predict that the micro mobility market in the U.S. will be worth $200-300 billion. Similarly, an increase in the usage of micro mobility is observed in European cities due to strict gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicle regulations, and the market is expected to be worth $150 billion by 2030.  Within this trend, electric scooters became especially popular, surpassing the number of stationed bike trips, which are the oldest form of shared micro mobility. 


Overall, micro mobility—especially shared mobility—has a great potential to decrease congestion and air pollution as it reduces the number of traditional personal vehicles. In a survey done by a micro mobility company, 30% of the riders choose not to use automobiles in their most recent trip, which supports the idea that micromobility can reduce car dependence and ownership. They also encourage public transportation usage as they serve as connecting vehicles between two means of transport. Additionally, e-scooters are extremely efficient as they can travel 82.8 miles on 1 kWh of energy compared to an electric vehicle which could only go 4.1 miles on the same amount of energy (CBInsights, 2019).


All in all, as individuals move away from owning personal automobiles and cities are desperate for a solution to decrease congestion and pollution, the popularity of micro mobility vehicles increases. With the increasing demand for e-scooters, it is very plausible that micro mobility road systems will be implemented just like bike roads. Thus, e-scooters have the potential to become the heart of a radical change in transportation to become more efficient, more affordable, and more environmentally friendly. 


Zeynep Aydin