• Urban Mobility
  • Electric Mobility
  • Electric Scooters
  • Electric Bicycles
  • smart cities

Boosting Micromobility Access Is Good for Business and Customers

Grant Samms
Oct 28, 2019

electric scooter

The growth of micromobility programs continues to march on. Shared scooters and bikes are proving to be excellent first and last mile mobility solutions and are creating new business opportunities in urban centers. Mobility tech companies are moving to acquire assets and deploy in an ever-growing number of markets. The advent of these mobility solutions has provided a potential blueprint for addressing this last mile problem: what do you do if your trip is too far to walk but too close for other options to be economical? For a growing number of urbanites, the answer is to jump on an electric scooter or dockless e-bike. Micromobility trips in the US alone have increased nearly 6.5 fold from 2013, for a total of 84 million trips in 2018

However, after choosing a mode of transit, there is still one potential sticking point for the would-be rider; how do you pick a route? Is the fastest route also the safest? Where will traffic be too congested to make riding enjoyable? This issue of route uncertainty has plagued urban cycling for decades and is a leading reason why would-be bike riders avoid the streets. In the context of micromobility companies, this potential aversion also creates the potential for lost revenue. 

Lyft Aims to Boost Ridership by Addressing Accessibility

There are a number of potential solutions to this problem. For example, in September 2019, Lyft announced that it is including protected bike lanes and bike friendly roads on its maps in markets where it offers micromobility options. Customers hopping aboard one of Lyft’s scooters, e-bikes, or bikeshares can find in-app guidance about the safest routes to their destinations. 

This new feature is in line with Lyft’s recent investments in the micromobility side of its business. In 2018, Lyft acquired Motivate, the largest bikeshare operator in the US. Lyft has also been working to deploy a fleet of dockless e-bikes starting in the San Francisco area. All these investments, though, have limited returns if a significant amount of the potential ridership feels unsure about where best to use them. 

Municipalities Concerned About Accessibility

Access to micromobility options is an area of concern for municipalities. Beyond concerns over unfamiliarity with safe routes, advocates point to other access issues, including those posed to low income individuals, the elderly, and other disadvantaged groups. The City of Baltimore was so concerned with ensuring equitable access to micromobility options that it created a mandate for companies operating in its boundary to place a certain allotment of assets in designated equity zones. Additionally, if resources in the equity zone fall below a given threshold, companies are required to reallocate resources back into the zone. Failure to adhere to this mandate results in a derogatory mark against the micromobility provider and, if enough marks accumulate, may be grounds for a refusal to renew a company’s operating license.

Accessibility Is the Gateway to Ridership

Access to micromobility is a multifaceted issue of concern for mobility advocates and municipal authorities and for transportation companies. As more cities see micromobility as a vital piece of transportation access, they are likely to ask more of the companies running such programs. Meanwhile, these companies have to tackle similar access issues on revenue grounds. A customer unsure of where to safely use a service is unlikely to engage with the platform altogether.