Micromobility For Tomorrow and Today
Why Shared Bikes, Scooters, and E-Bikes Are the Future of Cities
A Partner Post from our friends at Spin
The case for micromobility is made every day in cities across America by countless people choosing to ride scooters, bikes, and e-bikes. It is high-time for city streets to evolve to support the demand for more diverse mobility options.
At the turn of the 20th Century, as cars became a more intrinsic part of convenience and capitalism, streets were taken over by larger and larger vehicles — not the communal spaces for people they once were.
Today, we’re seeing the beginning of a reversal. In recent years, shared micromobility has seen explosive growth. According to NACTO, people in the United States took 136 million trips on shared bikes, e-bikes, and scooters in 2019 — that’s 60 percent more than 2018. Micromobility has been especially important during the pandemic, offering an open air, socially distanced solution for getting around a city. In order to continue this growth, we need streets that support micromobility.
Infrastructure is Key
By adapting streets to become more livable, and more functional for different modes of transportation, we will encourage more people to use micromobility for short trips, rather than their personal vehicle. This will reduce traffic congestion and pollution, and make everyone safer. High-quality shared scooters and bikes, along with user education, is only half of what it takes to create a comfortable experience for riders. Infrastructure is key to the future of sustainable travel and progress can take a number of different forms.
One example is protected bike lanes. When riders are physically separated from vehicle traffic, it creates a much more comfortable and safe ride. According to the New York City Department of Transportation, the installation of protected bike lanes on 9th Avenue led to a 56 percent reduction in injuries to all street users and an 84 percent reduction in sidewalk riding. The NYC DOT has allocated resources to the creation of protected bike lanes throughout New York City, with over 30 projects installed in 2020 alone.
Protected bike lanes are just one way infrastructure can support alternative transportation modes and entice people to leave their car at home. During the pandemic, we’ve seen the proliferation of Shared Streets (also known as Open Streets or Slow Streets) across the U.S. These are streets that are closed to through vehicle traffic in order to allow people more space to get outside and remain socially distant.
Spin analyzed scooter rider data in Washington D.C. following the implementation of Shared Streets. The data showed rides more than doubled by the first two weeks of August on shared streets. A survey of our D.C. riders revealed that 41 percent say they have taken more scooter trips on Shared Streets because they are closed to cars, making for a safer and more comfortable trip.
Goods News and Bad News
Since the start of the pandemic, city budgets have been slashed, making it difficult for local governments to invest in projects that would make shared streets permanent or create more protected bike lanes. But, for the first time in history, a presidential administration has included micromobility in its federal infrastructure plans. This support from the incoming Biden administration could take a number of forms including supplemental funding for infrastructure and allowing pre-tax commuter benefits for shared micromobility vehicles like e-scooters.
In the meantime, Spin is committed to creating a better environment for micromobility users. That’s why we are funding projects that rethink street design and the rules that govern our roads. We have partnered with local governments and the community-based organizations on several projects aimed at making streets safer and more livable for the people who use them.
When the pandemic hit New York City especially hard, Spin worked with StreetLab to create programming on Open Streets on 34th Avenue in Jackson Heights and Corona, Queens and Alexander Avenue in Mott Haven, Bronx. On these streets closed to cars, we provided community resources that promoted education, physical activity, and support for local families.
Another example is a project that Spin funded is in Salt Lake City. The goal of this project was to improve multimodal connections at one key intersection. By repurposing excess street space to offer a more comfortable experience for active transportation modes, we encouraged more people to consider mircromobility for trips that would have otherwise been made in a personal vehicle.
Continuing to rethink street design will fuel the next chapter in mobility, allowing more options for sustainable and efficient travel.
Kay Cheng is leading Spin’s Policy Initiatives Team. She is a trained Urban Planner and Designer and is a former employee of the New York City Planning Transportation Planning Division.