The best things really do come in small packages and I’m not just saying that because I’m 5’2”.
Micromobility has come to prominence over the past five years with the rise in use of electric bikes, electric scooters, electric skateboards and the like. The sector includes traditional bicycles and any lightweight motorised device smaller than a moped.
The recent dramatic reduction in use of public transport due to Covid-19 has accelerated the government’s thinking and consideration of micromobility, and awareness of e-scooters and e-bikes is growing rapidly. We are at an inflection point in short distance transportation, with e-scooter trials being piloted across the country over the next twelve months.
There are already a host of operators gearing up (pun intended) to enter the marketplace, most of which have apps, and many have infrastructure in place, such as a fleet of cycles or designated bays.
E-scooters and e-bikes are not just a fad, they are here to stay and should be in the mix as part of our future transport system. They are already in widespread use in cities around the world, such as Barcelona and Tel Aviv, and bring a host of benefits – from reducing the environmental impact of cars, buses, taxis and other forms of transport, to enabling quicker and easier journeys, especially the last mile/few miles.
If you’re anything like me and often have to take two or three different modes of transport to get to meetings (at least prior to lockdown), it can be jarring to miss one of those connections, or for it to be cancelled, meaning that you have to wait another twenty minutes for the next train or bus, making you late. Having a fleet of easily and readily accessible e-bikes and e-scooters integrated into our transport system would make my journeys closer to being seamless.
This is also not just a London-centric issue, or even a ‘key cities’ issue. Towns and cities up and down the UK where public transport is poor are facing severe car congestion. In many cases cars are relied upon for short journeys into town centres. A staggering 66% of all car journeys in the UK are under five miles, which would only take around twenty minutes on a e-bike or e-scooter. The introduction of these battery powered vehicles provides an opportunity to reduce this congestion dramatically.
Whilst no-one is advocating for micromobility to become the only type of transport in towns and cities, it has a significant role to play alongside existing public transport systems.
The UK has a legally binding target of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. With cars and vans accounting for 26% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions, micromobility offers a tangible means for people to reduce their carbon footprint.
Government has been encouraging an ‘eco friendly’ last mile of freight which should be extended to personal travel.
Air pollution hurts the environment, shortens lives and contributes to chronic illness including Covid-19. An individual’s health can be impacted by both short term, high pollution exposure, and by long-term exposure to low levels of pollution.
Whilst the government is tackling this at a macro level through the Clean Air Strategy and subsequent proposals, there are small things we can all do to make a big difference, including switching our transport mode to more environmentally friendly alternatives, whether walking, push bikes or e-bikes and e-scooters.
The micromobility sector provides challenges, and will need to tackle health and safety concerns practically and appropriately. But it also gives a huge opportunity to Westminster and city and town halls up and down the country. For the sector to survive and thrive, a clear and considerate case needs to be made to government that e-scooters, e-bikes and their siblings should be regulated in the same vein as bicycles, rather than being treated in the same category as mopeds and motorbikes.