Gone are the days of “the bigger, the better” when it comes to the vehicle of choice. In the 1970s, buyers wanted cars that were big in size with big engines. Over the years, that mindset downshifted. In the past decade, a trend towards smaller, less gas-guzzling, more personal transportation has gotten real traction. Local governments are weighing the pros and cons of micromobility and what to do legislatively.
What is micromobility?
Merriam-Webster defines “micromobility” as “transportation over short distances provided by lightweight, usually single-person vehicles (such as bicycles and scooters).” Wikipedia provides more specificity by including details such as method of propulsion, weight, and speed capabilities:
“Micromobility refers to a range of small, lightweight vehicles operating at speeds typically below 25 km/h (15 mph) and driven by users personally (unlike rickshaws). Micromobility devices include bicycles, e-bikes, electric scooters, electric skateboards, shared bicycle fleets, and electric pedal assisted (pedelec) bicycles.
Initial definitions set the primary condition for inclusion in the category of micromobility to be a gross vehicle weight of less than 500 kilograms (1,100 lb). However, the definition has evolved to exclude devices with internal combustion engines and those with top speeds above 45 kilometres (28 mi)/h.”Wikipedia
Keep in mind, because micromobility is still a relatively new and emerging transportation option, its definition is sure to continue evolving as the industry innovates and expands.
So what’s motivating micromobility?
Traffic jams. We’ve all experienced the frustration of traffic congestion and gridlock. A study by Texas A&M Transportation Institute found that commuters wasted an average of 54 hours of their time in traffic every year. And in larger cities, it was nearly double that time.
Additionally, a study by the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy found that nearly 60% of all vehicle trips were less than six miles. So six mile trips could seem more like 16.
Micromobility provides a less expensive, less traffic-bound, less time-intensive way to accomplish most local travel needs. Especially in light of the impact that COVID-19 has had on public transit. Traveling by bike or scooter allows socially-distanced, open-air alternatives that also happen to be mostly environmentally friendly.
What are the micromobility misgivings?
Traffic safety. Probably the greatest concern about micromobility is how to safely merge one-person vehicles into a still largely car-centric traffic system. The predominance of automobiles on roads and highways is something that planners have been challenged with for decades as pedestrian and bike accidents have increased.
If they haven’t already, local governments need to start examining how roadways that were designed and built for car traffic can be reimagined and adapted to accommodate the movement toward scooters, e-bikes, and other one-person vehicles.
How municipalities can respond with micromobility legislation
Several laws regarding pedestrian and bicycle safety have been put in place at the federal level. But there are many ways that local officials can make their municipalities more welcoming to micromobility. These include:
- Reviewing streets and sidewalks ordinances. Ensure that your municipal code is up to date with the latest terminology and that it addresses micromobility devices.
- Designate parking zones for bikes and scooters. Locations such as Seattle have established specific locations where bikes and scooters can be dropped off or docked. This helps to reduce the clutter and dangerous conditions that can occur when these vehicles are discarded in random places or on sidewalks.
- Establishing bike lanes. Reconfiguring traffic patterns to provide separate lanes designated for bikes, scooters and the like help to prevent accidents and encourage safer travel for all.
- Examining speed limits for high-traffic, shared roads. Reducing speed limits for cars in areas where they share the road with bicyclists and scooter operators has the potential to make drivers more mindful of their surroundings and better able to react safely when approaching one-person vehicles.
- Increasing penalties for infractions. Considering fines for such actions as automobiles crossing into bike lanes or reserved areas for bicycles or scooters may help deter unsafe behavior by motorists.
- Introducing bike- and/or scooter-sharing programs. Shared systems offer new and powerful ways to help people meet their transportation needs. E-bike and e-scooter programs can help many people overcome barriers that would otherwise prevent them from taking active forms of transportation. The Federal Highway Administration notes that “dockless e-scooter share programs, with the sensible equity policies, lend themselves to serving disadvantaged communities.”
Useful examples of micromobility legislation from the eCode360® Library
Updating your municipal code is vitally important
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- The Massive American Cars of 1970
- Micromobility in Cities: A History and Policy Overview
- Definition of micromobility
- Micromobility Will Change Your Commute – Here’s How
- As COVID-19 Shifts Transportation Preferences, New Report Highlights Need for E-scooter and E-bike Safety Initiatives
- Pedestrian & Bicycle Safety
- What Is Micromobility?
- NACTO Guidelines for Regulating Shared Micromobility
- Micromobility: A Travel Mode Innovation
- E-Scooter Programs: Current State of Practice in US Cities (2019)
- Why micromobility is here to stay
- Putting Micromobility at the Center of Urban Mobility
- Micromobility in Cities: A History and Policy Overview
- eCode360 Library