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Micromobility Explorer - how to make it sustainable

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We've spent several months browsing cities, meeting executives and studying usecases to understand what is hidden behind the micromobility frenzy. As urbanist and mobility experts, we have tried to figure out how to solve the main issues encountered by operators and cities. Hope you enjoy the ride ! It's only the beginning...

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Micromobility Explorer - how to make it sustainable

  1. 1. • 1 • september 2019 SUMMARY OF FINDINGS — micromobility explorer info@15marches.fr contact@dixit.net
  2. 2. ‘Micromobility’ is the recently coined term for a category of new transportation modes which fit in none of the traditional transportation categories. It encompasses very different vehicles which are lumped together under the title of Personal Mobility Devices (PMD), like electric- assist bikes, electric scooters, uniwheels, self-balancing scooters, hoverboards, and the like. The list is long, yet it is far from exhaustive given that the miniaturization and falling cost of electric engines and batteries promises the arrival of ever-more incredulous vehicles. However, the study of micromobility is about more than the emergence of new technologies – the real revolution is not the sudden uptake of these new devices, but the way in which they arrive on the market. In addition to people purchasing these devices in a traditional manner for private uses, numerous commercial offerings have appeared in the form of short-, medium- or long-term rental services. These can be staffed or unstaffed, station-based or dockless, and available to the public or reserved for a company’s employees. The most noticeable phenomenon in 2019 has of course been that of the free- floating electric scooter. The networking of these devices via smartphone apps has turned these new scooter services into real decentralized transport systems. The promise of having “your personal transport solution wherever you want it, in one click” explains their extraordinary success around the globe. After arriving a year ago in the United States, they are already more popular than bike share systems. While their share in the global mobility market is insignificant for the moment, the growth curves are impressive; such a rapid uptake of a transportation service has simply never been seen before. Investors weren’t mistaken – the industry is today one of those attracting the most capital and the top skills. It has the characteristic features of the “new economy” with which investors are familiar: a huge market (short trips account for over half of all miles travelled), affordable technology (an e-scooter costs 500 US dollars), and the possibility to scale up quickly without regulation. Introduction —
  3. 3. • 3 • After their initial successes, start-ups are, however, realizing the difficulty of managing a fleet of vehicles in cities, which – to make an understatement – weren’t expecting them. The response that this boom has brought is reminiscent of that provoked by other prior radical innovations; while enthusiasts view micromobility as the “new smartphone”, sceptics contend that it is only a niche-centred fad which solves none of the “real problems” of mobility and even creates new ones. The outcry generated by these “new entrants” shows that our streets are today a subject of political debate for which micromobility has merely been a trigger. These scooters have held up a mirror highlighting the unsuitability of another of our modes of transport – that is, the car – for the city of today. Cars are no longer the democratic, practical and efficient mode that they have long represented. Their competitiveness is declining given the high cost of land and energy today. The criticisms currently being made about e-scooters are in fact those that people dare not make about cars: they clutter up the streets, cause pollution, go at unsuitable speeds and put the most vulnerable in danger. It is scooters and bikes that are actually best at the “job” expected of a city transportation mode, which is to move a person from A to B, over a short distance and with the minimum resources. Electric assistance and onboard technology enable these modes to scale up, catering for larger communities of users for a greater number of trips and over longer distances of travel. If public authorities so decide, these modes could thus become the natural partner of public transport that cars – whether private or shared – have never managed to be. The micromobility challenge is to take advantage of this boom to thoroughly redesign city infrastructure. There where public transport has too often been the only solution pitted against the private car, micromobility is the catalyst that could allow us to eradicate the car all together and make public transport more efficient. Micromobility can provide a valuable complement to heavy-duty public transport networks as well as a way of “weaving together” or reconnecting urban fabric and restoring the sense of closeness that has been lost. Introduction
  4. 4. • 4 • Introduction This transformation, however, cannot take place without radically changing a system which has for decades been designed for privately-owned cars. To this end, a number of complex challenges remain to be met, such as: • redistributing public space in favour of the most efficient modes and the most vulnerable city users • optimizing self-service offerings and ensuring that they are available to everyone • prioritizing environmentally, socially and economically sustainable business models • creating urban policy conditions that will allow these services to develop smoothly. Although this study does not provide the answer to all of these issues, we hope that it will help to eliminate a number of misconceptions and highlight the potential that these solutions represent for a more calm and sustainable city.
  5. 5. This document is a summary of findings of the Micromobility Explorer study carried out by Stéphane Schultz (15marches), a strategy consultant and expert on new mobilities, and Sylvain Grisot (dixit.net), a consultant and expert on circular urban design, from November 2018 to May 2019. Contact : info@15marches.fr syg@dixit.net This study was financed by the French Environment Energy Management Agency (ADEME), Allianz and Transdev. ABOUT THE STUDY —
  6. 6. • 6 • For the purposes of this study, we met with 15 or so bodies in the US and in Europe, including mobility operators, local authorities, tech firms and consultancies. A dozen case studies were also produced on micromobility services operating in the US, in Europe and in Asia. ABOUT THE STUDY 15marches • 2019 CONTENTS chap. 1.............................. p.7 Understanding Micromobility — chap. 2.............................. p.17 A Vast and Accessible Market — chap. 3.............................. p.24 Calming the Chaos
  7. 7. “Small fragile vehicles designed for short trips which could be made on foot or using public transport”. To analyse the micromobility market, it is first necessary to explore the misconceptions around it, which distort our vision of the transportation market and alter the perceived efficiency of different transport modes. The micromobility market is not a niche market; it is the largest market in terms of number of trips and distances covered. It is a market that is stealing share from the private car, thanks to modes of travel that are both efficient on an individual basis and powerful as part of networks. WHAT EXACTLY DO WE MEAN BY MICROMOBILITY MARKET? — The definition that we have adopted encompasses the various forms of use of Personal Mobility Devices (PMD), whether they have electric assistance or not and whether they are user-owned or provided by an operator. The study therefore looks at the products, their features and the regulations that apply to them, as well as at the systems to which they can belong, such as station- based or dockless self-service systems, long-term rental services, and so on. Given their commercial success, free- floating (i.e. dockless) rental systems have been analysed in particular detail. UNDERSTANDING MICROMOBILITY — CHAP. #1
  8. 8. • 8 • 15marches • 2019 THE MICROMOBILITY MARKET: DEVICES AND TRANSPORT SYSTEMS A B CHAP. #1 UNDERSTANDING MICROMOBILITY The way that micromobility is used shows how flexible it is; it is possible to use your own vehicle for an entire trip and board it onto public transportation, or use a shared vehicle for your entire journey or combined with public transport. Its complementarity with public transport services depends on the mix proposed in terms of prices, distribution, ease of onboarding, availability of vehicles in stations, and so on. Although we readily associate the growth in micromobility with the e-scooter, the most striking phenomenon of the last few months is actually the boom in electric-assist bikes (EAB). Over 2.5 million e-bikes were sold in Europe, and in Germany and Holland EABs even accounted for one in two bikes sales. E-bikes are already used by a wider population and for much more varied trip types than non-electric bikes. Many factors indicate that e-bikes will shift to becoming the “standard type of bike on sale” – like the smartphone has become the standard mobile phone – such as the drop in cost of ownership, the increasing number of models available and the availability of rental services that give people the opportunity to test them. EABs are in the process of making bikes a mainstream mode of transport, which is something that the bicycle policies of the last 20 years have failed to achieve.
  9. 9. • 9 • The parallel with smartphones doesn’t end here. Households are investing in several personal mobility devices, which they use differently depending on the journey, weather conditions and personal circumstances (fatigue, route, etc.). Some days, the user will commute using a light, foldable scooter that can be boarded onto the train, while they might complete the same commute entirely by EAB in fine weather. Similarly, they may switch between using shared fleets and their own device depending on the place of destination and whether, for example, it offers secure parking and the ability to recharge. In the future, there will probably be no “one-solution-fits-all transport mode”, but a panoply of vehicles and services that people will use as they see fit. As to the distinction between electrically assisted or human powered modes, we have observed that, while e-assist devices are less beneficial for health, they give a larger number of people the opportunity to be car free. By enabling the rider to set off faster, electric assistance reduces the difficulty of sharing the street with cars and removes people’s fear of arriving “all sweaty at the office”. The possibility to use cycle paths and secure bike sheds makes e-bikes competitive with motorized two-wheel vehicles. The main barriers to using them have thus been removed. Moreover, contrary to what many believe, studies show that electric-assist bikes give people as much physical exercise as non-electric assist bikes, since people tend to ride them further and more frequently. We, however, prefer to insist on the notion of the “augmented pedestrian”. The idea is that the unenclosed nature of PMDs allows their users to relate to city and other people in the same way as a pedestrian. Scooters, in particular, are appreciated by their users for being easy to get on and off. From an environmental perspective, Personal Mobility Devices offer an infinitely better power-to-weight ratio than cars, even electric ones. Do we prefer to move one person around with a 250-watt e-scooter weighing 20 kilos, or with a 65-kilowatt car – i.e. 300 times more energy-intensive – weighing 1.2 tons? CHAP. #1 UNDERSTANDING MICROMOBILITY
  10. 10. • 10 • CHAP. #1 UNDERSTANDING MICROMOBILITY 15marches • 2019 The Augmented Pedestrian 0 100 200 300 400 (watts) power 75w 150w 300w 350w 65Kw Being an augmented pedestrian also helps to “reconnect urban fabric” in restoring the closeness of things and removing the often arduous nature of walking and cycling, especially on the outskirts of cities. And too bad if the purists would prefer that to happen with human powered means alone. Let us not forget that walking and public transport are already greatly assisted in cities by escalators, lifts, automatic doors and the like. PMDs have benefited from favourable technological and economic trends – the cost of batteries, for example, has decreased seven-fold over the last few years. Batteries and engines are also increasingly small and light, adding just five to seven kilos to the weight of a bike for enough autonomy to complete a day’s worth of urban travel.
  11. 11. • 11 • CHAP. #1 UNDERSTANDING MICROMOBILITY Change in average lithium-ion battery price per kWh batterypackprice(real2018$/kWh) 1160 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 899 707 650 577 373 288 214 176 15marches • 2019 • Source : Bloomberg NEF 22% 21% 8% 11% 35% 23% 26% 18% These technologies are now easily and massively available. There are longer any barriers to industrial entry for those wishing to build personal mobility devices. In contrast to cars, which are still a mass-market product manufactured by a few operators, PMDs can be produced in small or large volume and are customizable and modular. Extremely short innovation cycles mean that they are constantly being improved with the regular addition of new functions.
  12. 12. • 12 • CHAP. #1 UNDERSTANDING MICROMOBILITY NEW ELECTRIC VEHICLES E-SCOOTER UNIWHEEL HOVERBOARD E-SKATE 15marches • 2019 Add to this the possibility of integrating electronic components and personalized sensors to these devices as “original equipment” and you will understand why businesses from the “new economy” have with these devices found the answer to the problems that they had up to now been trying to solve – in vain – with shared car systems. The first-generation micromobility service consisted of free-floating bike share systems with no onboard technology. The entire service was delivered by the user’s smartphone, using a simple barcode system to identify and localize the bike. The bike itself had no inbuilt “intelligence”. Things are quite different today. Devices now have an inbuilt “brain” which is constantly connected to the internet; they have speed, position and environmental sensors and can be operated as part of a network via a central system. A model of scooter that can be controlled remotely was even presented recently.
  13. 13. • 13 • CHAP. #1 UNDERSTANDING MICROMOBILITY This system allows you not only to localize the device, but to interact with its basic functions (e.g. shut down, battery, speed, restriction of use in certain areas/at certain times). The data collected by today’s micromobility services are analysed to forecast demand and facilitate rebalancing which involves returning devices to where they are needed, when they are needed. Like with the first-generation services, they are also delivered to the user via his or her own smartphone, through interfaces which indicate where and how to collect one’s device. These technologies have substantially improved the sharing capabilities of these devices. In a context where public space and energy are rare, micromobility needs to be seen as a way of both reducing the power required to transport a person and increasing the usage intensity of the resources deployed. Less power means lighter vehicles taking up less space; greater intensity means less use of space for an equivalent number of trips.
  14. 14. • 14 • CHAP. #1 UNDERSTANDING MICROMOBILITY 15marches • 2019 UNDERSTANDING MICROMOBILITY POWER DISTRIBUTIONpower (kW/h) DISTRIBUTION (TRIPS PER DAY) 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 TESLA owned ZOÉ owned VAE owned Vélo owned Vélib station-based citybike station-based ELECTRIC-ASSIST CITYBIKE station-based SHARED SCOOTER free floating SHARED CAR free floating SHARED EAB free floating 250 W 60 kW 100 kW The matrix above illustrates the aim of micromobility, which is to offer personal transportation modes that run on low power (vertical axis), made available through services which maximize usage (horizontal axis). We can see that electric cars, whether shared or not, are out of range. The power required to move them around cities places them in a very unfavourable position. UNBRIDLED GROWTH IN MICROMOBILITY SERVICES — Over the last ten years, cities have developed station-based or “docked” bike share systems. For example, with New York’s Citibikes – which is one of these systems described above – seven trips per bike per day are reported on average, with up to 15 journeys per bike per day for electric-assist bikes. Free-floating scooters and bikes initially developed without the approval of cities, then agreements were established placing restrictions on their use and number. For the moment, these services are reporting lower usage intensity figures (see below). The distinction between dockless and station-based services is becoming increasingly blurred. Many systems allow users to leave vehicles outside of docking stations; dockless (or free-floating) services increasingly require users to leave vehicles in designated areas which are sort of infrastructureless stations (referred to as a semi-floating service); station-based systems also have to perform rebalancing operations to refill stations after rush hour.
  15. 15. • 15 • The success of this second generation of shared services has been both rapid and overwhelming; nobody has ever seen such growth curves in the transport business. Initially exclusive to the US, they have now also made it to Europe. Where station-based and dockless services exist along side one another, the latter seem more attractive, despite them being unsubsidized and therefore more expensive. Ease-of- use is key in a market where there is little differentiation – the user takes the first scooter that he finds without much concern for the brand. Add to that efficient user interfaces featuring very simple onboarding (first steps for using the service), and you have the key factors of success of free-floating scooters. In this race, size matters – in Paris, the market leader Lime reportedly provides for over 50,000 trips on some days, which is equivalent in usage to a provincial city tram line. Such success must be analysed in relation to the objective of usage intensity, discussed above. In most of the cases studied, the number of vehicles which free-floating operators have put into service seems to exceed needs. Low investment and operating costs – a vehicle which is not running costs virtually nothing – encourage this strategy of “spamming”, which consists in being present everywhere in great number to create desire and incite people to try the service. The chart above, drawn from the findings of the Amercian association NACTO, clearly shows that the cities with the largest free-floating fleets have the lowest utilization rates. CHAP. #1 UNDERSTANDING MICROMOBILITY 15marches • 2019 • Source : crunchbase news UNPRECEDENTED GROWTH IN USE 6M 4M 8M 10M 12M 2M 0M 5/2017 7/2017 9/2017 11/2017 1/2018 3/2018 5/2018 7/2018 9/2018 Lime Launch Launch 1M Total Rides 1M Total Rides 3M Total Rides 6M Total Rides 10M Total Rides 11M Total Rides Bird
  16. 16. • 16 • This strategy of local oversupply has a damaging effect because although users of these services love them, non- users reject or even hate them. How can private companies be occupying the streets in this way without any clear restriction or control? Why do these scooters stay in one spot all day without being used? For an area like urban services, which is generally characterized by the rareness of resources, the situation is as confusing as it is new for people. The analysis could end here, with the conclusion that “micromobility is a passing fad inflated by cheap money and a lack of regulation, which won’t last forever”. We, however, don’t believe that this is the case. Firstly, because micromobility is not confined to free-floating services. Let us not forget that these services are only present in a few large cities. It is a case of “not seeing the wood for the trees” (of Paris). The “wood” is the surge in purchases of Personal Mobility Devices and the fact that they are being used in much broader contexts and by much larger populations than bikes. The “wood” is the number of former car drivers among these new users, who are adopting micromobility not because of rhetoric or grants, but based on experience. Lastly, the “wood” is the tremendous opportunity created by the arrival on the market of devices that are more affordable, practical and… user friendly. Even if many serious cyclists find it hard to understand how electric assistance is a game changer, it is important to highlight that it is this that has been the trigger which we have awaited for 20 years. Technology isn’t everything, but when it coincides with favourable conditions – in this case, the environmental emergency and individuals’ desire to change their behaviour – it is a catalyst for change. Free-floating scooter services will no doubt evolve, or perhaps even disappear. However, micromobility is here to stay, as it offers an effective and accessible solution in response to the vast trip market. CHAP. #1 UNDERSTANDING MICROMOBILITY 15marches • 2019 • Source : NACTO RIDES PER VEHICLE PER DAY BY FLEET SIZE 4 3 2 1 0 RIDESPERVEHICLEPERDAY FLEET SIZE 5 scooter sharebike share system 1000 2000 3000 4000 5000 6000 7000 8000 9000 10000 11000 12000
  17. 17. The mobility market is most often presented as a market of commute trips, or in other words those journeys to and from work or school, which are typically the most constrained and longest daily trips that we make. Transport policies focus on these trips as a priority, taking into account both public transport and private cars. However, such trips actually only account for 40% of everyday travel. The majority of the mobility market is in fact comprised of another type of trips – those connected with leisure, shopping and administrative formalities. These are short trips (of less than 10 km) which take place within the inner city, where public space is more scarce and constrained. A MARKET OF SHORT DISTANCE TRIPS — The market available for micromobility to conquer is the short trip one, i.e. trips of 500 metres to 10 km. Short trips account for the majority of miles travelled, even in France. There is today a misconception that this market is covered by walking and public transport. The reality though is that, apart from in very big cities, private cars monopolize this segment. The figures below are taken from an American study, but French research paints a rather similar picture – i.e. most trips are short trips, for which the private car is the predominant choice of solution. A VAST AND ACCESSIBLE MARKET — CHAP. #2
  18. 18. • 18 • Private cars, however, are particularly unsuited to the constraints that moving around cities entails. Their average speed rarely attains 15 kph; parking them – and they are parked for 90% of the time – eats up scarce and expensive public space, and their moving mass is a constant danger for other users. As for public transport, it is not optimized for short trips. Its spatial coverage, journey times and prices make it difficult for it to offer cost effectiveness. Walking is strongly influenced by external factors such as the quality of footpaths and crossings, the environment and whether or not people feel safe. Finally, the relocation of people and businesses to the outskirts of cities has resulted in a grey area, in which short local trips are mainly made in cars due to the poor quality of footpaths, the unpleasant urban environment and... the omnipresence of cars. Micromobility operators have seen that this short trip market is immediately accessible. Technology allows them to offer reliable devices that are relatively cheap and have enough battery autonomy for these trips. Their acceleration capabilities make riding alongside cars less dangerous. These devices have already won over a very broad population. In the Unites States, for example, disadvantaged classes are much more attracted to scooters than bikes, probably for reasons related to learning and culture. Women also find an appeal in electric-assistance vehicles which they failed to see in motorized two-wheelers. Scooters are also considered easier to use than bikes for short trips. CHAP. #2 A VAST AND ACCESSIBLE MARKET 15marches • 2019 • source : Micromobility Industries HOW BIG IS THE MARKET? 13% 12% 11% 10% 9% 8% 7% 6% 5% 4% 3% 2% 1% 0% 1 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 50 55 60 65 70 75 80 DISTRIBUTION OF CAR TRIPS IN THE UNITED STATES ONE-WAYTRIPS DISTANCE TRAVELLED (IN MILES)
  19. 19. • 19 • WHEN CITIES AND WEB PLATFORMS MEET — Capital risk investors particularly appreciate the sort of alignment of the planets that we are observing with micromobility – that is, a very large global market, available technologies, rapid adoption by users and the involvement of talented entrepreneurs. Consequently, they have massively invested in these businesses in the hope of “changing the market”. The two leading free-floating scooter providers (Lime and Bird) have managed to raise funds in excess of 400 million dollars. The aim is to achieve very fast growth in terms of fleet size and number of cities in order to outpace competitors. Behind these two, there is already a long list of followers, made up of more local companies offering more or less the same products with the same business model. The main difference is in the size of fleet provided. In the coming six month periods, there is no doubt that some of these operators will disappear and that there will be market concentration. The strategy of capital- risk investors is to gamble on several of the competitors early on, in order to then “kill” those that can’t keep up and focus on the leaders. Many of the entrepreneurs that have started these companies come from ride hailing or bike share companies. The failures of ofo and Mobike, two “basic” bike share services, have been a lesson for entrepreneurs who thus seem to be controlling the expansion of scooter services more carefully – for example, they abandon less attractive markets more quickly and regularly increase prices in others. They have also invested in more costly devices and the development of anti-theft solutions. Paradoxically, the very high levels of vandalism seen in the beginning have been beneficial for companies in forcing them to design and produce their own devices and technologies. Innovation cycles are very short, allowing operators to release technology or services onto the market quickly. CHAP. #2 A VAST AND ACCESSIBLE MARKET 15marches • 2019 NAME (COUNTRY) VEHICLE FUNDS RAISED NUMBER OF FUNDRAISING ROUNDS CHEAP CAPITAL INFLOWS OFO (CN) 2 150 MOBIKE (CN) 928 LIME (US) 765 GOGORO (TN) 480 BIRD (US) 415 DOTT (FR) 23 BOLD TXFY (EE) 177 SKIP (US) 131 GRIN (MX) 72 FLASH (DE) 62 TIER (DE) 62 VOI (SE) 83
  20. 20. • 20 • This extreme level of volatility is also rendered possible by the reduction of fixed costs to a minimum. Fleets of thousands of devices can be launched in a city with less than ten staff, where an equivalent service provided by a public transport network would require three or five times as many. How is this possible? Firstly, by using pooled solutions and processes (software, interfaces, equipment, maintenance, etc.) and secondly by employing a decentralized workforce. Businesses in this sector have favoured a crowdsourcing model; freelance contractors connect to an application to find out which scooters to pick up, recharge and redistribute. They are paid on a per-task basis with dynamic rates that vary according to supply and demand. It is the same “gig-based” model developed by the ride hailing operators and meal delivery applications. The value of the service lies in the system which “books” these contractors; it uses algorithms to tell the contractor where to drop off the devices each morning based on usage data. They form the “invisible infrastructure” which re-supply pavements and redistribute scooters. CHAP. #2 A VAST AND ACCESSIBLE MARKET
  21. 21. • 21 • Micromobility services have therefore opted for business models which minimize barriers to entry and fixed costs. This has allowed them to rapidly win an enthusiastic customer base which cares little about the inner workings of the services they use. The grey legislative area in which shared PMDs find themselves has allowed them to launch their services with minimal constraints – there are few regulations on devices and their use, few sanctions for users and few or no approval processes in cities. The downside of this easiness is that it has led to a wave of misunderstanding, followed by indignation, more or less everywhere that these services have been launched. The public has been shocked by this “laissez-faire” attitude which is rather unusual in the area of urban services. In the United States, which we visited for this study, reactions have been even more fierce due to the “precedents” left by Uber and Lyft. Cities were quick to respond to the arrival of scooters and bike share systems, imposing strict conditions and taxes on them. Because, although the “commercial” side of these services is a success, everything is yet to be done to integrate them efficiently into urban ecosystems. CHAP. #2 A VAST AND ACCESSIBLE MARKET 15marches • 2019 MICROMOBILITY: THE VALUE CHAIN USERS MOBILITY SERVICE PROVIDER OPERATORSMAINTENANCE REPAIR BATTERY CHARGERS BATTERY SUPPLIERS DEVICE MANUFACTURER SATELLITE NAVIGATION SYSTEM 4G Banque IT € LICENSE FEES AUTHORIZATIONS CITY HALL MAIRIE € € € € €
  22. 22. • 22 • CHAP. #2 A VAST AND ACCESSIBLE MARKET 15marches • 2019 MICROMOBILITY AN INTERDEPENDENT SYSTEM DEVICE USER INFRASTRUCTURE SYSTEMrecycling power traffic satellite navigation system insurance police product certification maximum speed locking systems lights safety battery autonomy maintenance rebalancing recharging cleaning pedestrians disabled public transport transport hubs docking stations parking data QR code 4G mobile app payment age professional private multimodality residents equipment driver rules speed respect for speed limits/stop signs
  23. 23. • 23 • So, what needs to be done? Micromobility intersects three key aspects of cities: users, the vehicles or devices that transport them and infrastructure. Micromobility operators have developed technological and operational infrastructure that allows them to manage a real network of distributed transport. However, this infrastructure is for the moment largely disconnected from the existing infrastructure, both in the physical and regulatory sense. Many have deemed it reckless to launch new modes of transport that users often deploy clumsily, while city infrastructure is already inadequate for its other users as it is. This strategy, however, is intentional and assumed. New micromobility operators do not think it necessary to wait for the arrival of appropriate infrastructure to launch their offering; they believe that the growth of the service, even if it is chaotic, will force authorities to create it. The history of the smartphone and mobile internet, where the service offer has always advanced the infrastructure, is their proof. What remains to be seen is how to create infrastructure and adapt the urban ecosystem to best accommodate these services. New operators are banking on the fact that the growth in usage will force authorities to create the necessary infrastructure. CHAP. #2 A VAST AND ACCESSIBLE MARKET
  24. 24. IDENTIFYING THE REAL PROBLEMS — Seen through the narrow window of social media, the emergence of micromobility in cities is nothing but a situation of chaos and despair, with hordes of helmetless riders invading pedestrian zones at unbelievable speeds, scooters lying on the ground turning sidewalks into an obstacle course, and piles of muddy devices heaped up on river banks after being dumped in various French rivers. While these emotional reactions focus on the “trees”, or in other words on free-floating services, as opposed to the “wood” or the rise of micromobility, and fail to consider a good part of the debate, they illustrate that these services bring real difficulties of acceptance, which extend far beyond resistance to change or a rejection of the latest entrant. The introduction of these services in cities indeed raises real questions to which the various stakeholders – that is, the start-ups and their users, and the cities and their residents – do not yet have satisfactory answers. The disorganized manner in which many riders are using devices is the logical consequence of the legal ambiguity that has long prevailed and the playfulness of the object in question. In our collective culture, a scooter is a toy. Though this has considerably facilitated the adoption of services, with scooters being promoted as a new enjoyable way of moving around cities, the (overdue) clarification of the regulatory framework should be accompanied by an educational policy (which needs to be developed), as well as the sanctioning of offences (which is complex), with the clear message that the sidewalks is for pedestrians. But more than issues related to the riding of these devices, it is their parking on sidewalks which people feel most strongly about. Even when used intensively – which is certainly not always the case – a free-floating device spends most of its life waiting in a public area for a random user to arrive. For a few (or sometimes dozen or so) minutes of use in a day, the device occupies the public space for hours. Cities and operators everywhere are trying to find a way to prevent this time spent on the pavement from being a nuisance for the pavement’s (many) users. CALMING THE CHAOS — CHAP. #3
  25. 25. • 25 • CHAP. #3 CALMING THE CHAOS Despite some interesting ideas identified by a number of unfortunately mismanaged trials (notably one making it compulsory to lock devices to something after use), the organization of the parking of free-floating devices has been a failure overall. Although the actual incidences of scooters physically obstructing sidewalks and preventing the passage of pedestrians – as seen in the media – are rare, many untidily positioned devices or devices lying on the ground create a real eyesore that harms the readability of public space and fuels rejection among people and the authorities. The parking of free-floating devices is a central issue of the relationship between micromobility users and other public space users, as well as the relationship between operators and authorities. It is the element which must be dealt with to facilitate the acceptance of shared micromobility and avoid overregulating, which would jeopardize operators and, more importantly, a service with considerable potential for city users. The size of these challenges, though, highlights a much more structural problem, which is that sidewalks have become so narrow that there isn’t even room to put a few scooters on them without creating a nuisance for other uses.
  26. 26. • 26 • RETHINKING SPATIAL DISTRIBUTION — It is of course cars that are today taking up all the space in cities. And whether they are parked or in motion, this space is huge. Yet if the aim is to move people – and not cars – around efficiently, cars have a very low land-use efficiency compared to all other alternative transportation modes, in addition to performing poorly from an energy efficiency perspective. Source données : KiM Netherlands Institute for Transport Policy Analysis CHAP. #3 CALMING THE CHAOS 15marches • 2019 • Data source: KiM Netherlands Institute for Transport Policy Analysis 140m2 5m2 Car 50 kph • 1 passenger Bike 15 kph 2m2 20m2 7m2 Parked car Tram Parked bike 2m2 Pedestrian 0,5m2 Stationary pedestrian SURFACE AREA OCCUPIED BY DIFFERENT MODES OF TRANSPORT BOTH MOVING AND STATIONARY, CALCULATED ON AN PER-PASSENGER BASIS
  27. 27. • 27 • CHAP. #3 CALMING THE CHAOS 15marches • 2019 PEDESTRIAN MICROMOBILITY CAR PUBLIC TRANSPORT 6 6 25 6 6 25 50 50 The sudden emergence of micromobility in cities highlights the level of unpreparedness for the mass use of alternatives to the car. The arrival of service operators has been the focus of attention, but behind this is a deep shift in behaviours, symbolized by the rapid development of electric-assist bikes. The current distribution of space cannot accommodate this mass use of micromobility. Its rise has quickly created conflicts with pedestrians and has also shown that the current infrastructure is not safe enough to allow it to develop properly. This growth in micromobility, however, involves very rapid innovation cycles, similar to those seen with smartphones. It is therefore impossible and futile in this context for cities to manage how each new type of device is used, and even more so adapt the public space to its specific needs. There will not be room to reserve a lane for every different type of mode, and therefore the space will need to be shared. Access to the difference segments of public space should be conditioned by a more relevant criterion, like the true speed of vehicles or devices. To organize traffic flows involving different modes within the same space, it is indeed necessary to reduce the speed differences between them. Their true speeds must be compatible. In many situations, pathways will be shared between different modes, with a speed limit corresponding strictly to the slowest type. An example of how this might be organized is shown below:
  28. 28. • 28 • CHAP. #3 CALMING THE CHAOS Where traffic flows are separated, each mode has its own designated space where it can move at its maximum speed with minimal interference. The difficulty lies mainly in reducing the true speed of a mode when it must share the space with a slower mode. There are several options for regulating speed that do not involve displaying a speed limit and the associated checks, which has proven largely ineffective. These include automatic speed control and sanctioning, GPS speed control technology (this is already implemented by some operators) and, most importantly, urban design. CITIES IN TRANSITION — We have therefore entered a transition period, marked by an accelerated adoption rate, but a lag in the development of a shared culture and appropriate infrastructure. The challenge today is to limit the duration of this transition period, which brings with it a high level of risk. To shorten the transition period and become a city suited to micromobility, the rapid development of appropriate infrastructure is needed, otherwise conflicts of use and the associated risks will develop even faster than usage itself. The challenge is not to develop infrastructure only for those who have already adopted micromobility, but to allow those who are not yet users to become ones. 15marches • 2019 time usage culture + infrastructure usage TIME LAG transition
  29. 29. • 29 • CHAP. #3 CALMING THE CHAOS The slow development of cycle paths in France allows us to draw several lessons: • To ensure the uptake of a mode by less experienced users, the key is to offer them a real sense of safety on their trips. Cycle paths marked on the ground, offering no physical protection from moving vehicles and onto which the doors of parked cars can open, are clearly not safe enough. • Gaps in the system of pathways (for example, where unsuitable road sections or dangerous intersections occur) are also major handicaps to the uptake of micromobility. More than announcing how many miles of road have been (poorly) equipped for non-motorized modes the challenge is to create a complete network of well- designed pathways. • The rise in electric-powered devices means that we need to create lanes that are wide enough for users to overtake one other... or even ride side by side and chat. • Some urban infrastructure (e.g. roundabouts, public transport lanes shared with bikes, etc.), which can appear to function well when used by a few experienced riders prove unsuited to a higher volume of users that includes “novice” riders. • Beyond the issues of safety, the reliability of infrastructure (lack of obstructions, quality of surfacing, cleanliness, etc.) and their readability (road signage, cycle route signage, use of colour to distinguish from footpaths, etc.) are also essential. This sometimes chaotic rise in micromobility in cities is a phenomenon which is only going to intensify. The blossoming of new types of vehicles or devices and different forms of ownership and usages must not cause us to forget the characteristics that all micromobility share: exemplary energy and land use efficiency, and most importantly an approach to the city that could wipe out the car’s century-long domination of urban space. By filling a gap between heavy-duty transport and walking, micromobility connects places and people, as the car, even when shared, has never managed to do. Now authorities, operators and residents need to ensure a fast transition to create cities that are capable of accommodating alternative mobilities. That is the challenge of the decade.
  30. 30. info@15marches.fr contact@dixit.net

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