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Long Story Short: Micro-mobility: Innovative or a Safety Hazard?
Micro-Mobility startups, such Bird, Lime, Skip and Spin, grant users access to find and access electric scooters (e-scooters) through a phone application. Over the last two years, rentable e-scooters have been emerging throughout U.S. cities, and expanding worldwide. Once a user reaches their specific destination, they are able to just leave to scooter and freely continue onward. Shared scooters and other micro-mobility services may provide a new future in transportation throughout cities. Micro-mobility services largely consisting of e-scooters have seen a surge in fatal accidents and other injuries due to rider negligence. E-scooters may prove to be a safety hazard for not only the rider but passing drivers and pedestrians who must be aware of their surroundings.
Micro-mobility Innovation: New technological innovations for Micro-mobility services issued by manufacturers will help to improve the quality of the vehicles and reduce the cost of producing each unit. Manufacturers look to increase battery life which lowers juicer cost, and companies offer incentives for charging e-scooters at home. Improvements in material makeup, construction processes, and wheel size will provide sturdier e-scooters increasing their life span by more than 2 times. New entrants into the micro-mobility market offer newer improved models creating competition and spurring innovation in relation to unit production.
Increase in Popularity: Micro-mobility services such as docked bikes, dockless bikes, and e-scooters have seen a large increase in popularity for last-mile transportation. Data from Lime showed that the bike and e-scooter company which launched last June, had reached six million rides. In April, Bird had reached 1 million rides after it launched in November last year. 30% of e-scooter riders have reported using micro-mobility transportation instead of car rides during recent trips. European based micro-mobility startups, such as Tier Mobility, Wind Mobility, Voi Technology, Dott, and Flash, have raised over $150 million in capital in the last year.
Decrease Congestion: Megacities face severe congestion and increased pollution from expansive urbanization putting strain on public transportation. Around 46% of traffic congestion is caused by vehicles performing short trips of 3 miles or less, in the United States. INRIX data shows that on average 42 hours were spent in traffic congestion in the United States, in 2014, and micro-mobility services could help alleviate that congestion.
Safety Hazard: Emergency Rooms have reported an increase in micro-mobility related incidents as they become more available throughout the United States. Incidents largely occur due to rider neglect, where riders will use their phones while operating or multiple people will mount a single e-scooter. Micro-mobility companies have initiated educational campaigns and provided user safety videos online to help combat incidents. Safety tutorials and instructions are shown when a rider first creates an account on the applications, and the e-scooters are labeled with warnings. Many riders still need to become comfortable with handling vehicles and hopefully accident rates will decline in the future.
Theft and Vandalism: Vandalism and theft are significant issues in regard to placing many dockless micro-mobility devices around large cities. Many e-scooters have been reported being thrown into lakes and oceans. Companies have been proactive in trying to deter vandalism and theft by anticipating locations and cities where these types of incidents may occur. Micro-mobility companies will continue to improve security measures through improvements in security technology such as improved locks and remote monitoring.
City Regulation: The introduction of micro-mobility vehicles varies depending on city. Current infrastructure may not be able to support the large influx of micro-mobility vehicles, especially e-scooters. Issues pertaining to the parking of e-scooters, and bike lane and sidewalk usage, arise for bypassing pedestrians. Cities have been working with micro-mobility companies to provide electronic geo-zone information to users relating to unsafe areas and parking zones. Cities are actively trying to prohibit micro-mobility vehicle use on sidewalks to reduce the risk of injuries and congestion. Riders also need to hold a valid driver’s license and be of 18 years of age to make an account. Cities will require that micro-mobility companies can provide a level of safety and compliance before passing further regulation.
Micro-mobility profitability has widely varied depending on company and seasonality. Dense urban and city areas with a lot of traffic congestion make it difficult for car travel. Micro-mobility companies look to alleviate congestion by providing alternative forms of last-mile transportation. Alternative forms of environmentally conscious transportation will help decrease carbon emissions. Micro-mobility vehicles are also relatively cheap to use costing less than $2 a ride. Large ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft look to invest in micro-mobility startup companies which may prove to be profitable. Micro-mobility face issues regarding city regulation and safety concerns as rider negligence can lead to fatal accidents.
https://techcrunch.com/2018/07/23/lime-hits-six-million-rides/, Megan Rose Dickey
https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-07-20/why-e-scooters-are-on-the-rise-along-with-injuries-quicktake, Joshua Brustein, Nate Lanxon, and Simon Foy July 20, 2019