Micromobility 2.0: Embracing the Scooter/Bike Revolution…
Divorcing ourselves from using cars for short commutes is a good thing.
As a lifelong cyclist/motorcyclist, commuting has always been more of a joy than a chore. I’ve been fortunate to travel through seven countries & eight states via motorcycle and I rarely ever had to feel the angst of “traffic” in my local residence. Even after having moved to New York City, despite the fair share of close calls, pedaling would be the most convenient for me if it weren’t for high theft rates (and ∴ lugging around a 10-lb. lock). In 2016, I had the good fortune of traveling to Europe, where after a lifetime on two wheels, found myself envious of their culture of practical urban mobility. Scooters, bikes, mopeds, motorcycles…all making the most efficient use of limited road space for solo-commuters to complement the substantial public transport options and still have plenty of room for those carpooling with family and friends. So after seeing the recent surge in bike/scooter sharing services in the U.S. via companies such as Lime, Bird, Ofo, and Spin, it gave a renewed sense of confidence that we too could adopt a more practical form of transportation that carries a minimal footprint and some reasons why we all should embrace it:
1. Because they’re already here…
The white squall of bike/scooter share programs surged into major urban cities over the last two years. Outside of China’s early moves into the space, the U.S. stands to benefit immensely from these ventures. As indicated in the data above, the moves are still ramping up, quickly accelerating companies such as Lime and Bird into unicorn valuations in just under two years due in no small part to their impressive execution and “forgiveness rather than permission” mentality. Now, to think that these scooters/bikes are just going to go away because one or two of them were inconveniently placed on “your” sidewalk is a losing battle. Instead, it may be better to use them more frequently (and be pleasantly surprised by the results) and/or help change the dialogue for regulators to embrace and facilitate a new form of urban mobility.
It doesn’t take a Ph.D in urban planning to rationalize that a well-scaled network of bikes and scooters will take up a substantially smaller physical footprint than the current state of vehicles on the road. While little data has been supplied to show the degree of which scooter/bike trips replace car trips, any data interpretations are going to be skewed based on the network availability at the time of analysis. The question is more cultural in that can/will users adopt at the rate of which these companies can provide higher accessibility. For the sake of minimizing congestion, we should.
3. Clean Transport
Seeing the number of complaints about bike/scooter share programs in San Francisco (and elsewhere) from people who also probably claim to be “concerned” with climate change is a textbook case of missing the forest for the trees. This same group of grumblers (you know who you are) are painfully analogous to the equally pretentious British Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, who went on to obstruct phase 2 of a planned 1000-MW London Array offshore wind farm due to the perceived “threat” to the red-throated loon. Newsflash: There are plenty of loons…and for the very few of them who ended up actually striking a giant moving blade in the air, Darwinism was working. If we’re taking a utilitarian approach towards environmental protection, then minimizing fuel-burning vehicle traffic is always a net positive. Consider the bigger picture for the common roof we call Earth…and bring on the two-wheeled (e-)transport.
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