Can Micromobility Reduce Car Usage & Change Our Dependence on Personal Vehicles?

Can Micromobility Reduce Car Usage & Change Our Dependence on Personal Vehicles?

Micromobility is a relatively new concept that leverages the use of lightweight and eco-friendly vehicles designed for short-distance travel. These types of services have the potential to solve some of the biggest problems confronting urban and suburban communities. They can expand access to public transportation, reduce our reliance on cars, decrease our environmental footprint, and even save us money. Various micromobility projects and initiatives have already been deployed in many parts of the world, each with its benefits as well as a set of challenges. So far there has been a lot of debate regarding this new form of mobility and whether or not it can be effective in replacing or reducing car use. Let’s take a look into what available data shows us so far, some ways in which micromobility services could and have reduced car usage, and where the industry is headed.

Can Micromobility reduce our dependence on cars?

The rapid adoption of shared micromobility services in cities around the U.S., such as electric dockless scooters and bikes is already showing results in solving many of the urban issues we see today such as congestion, bad air quality, heavy reliance on cars, as well as the rising costs associated with owning and maintaining one. Micromobility has the potential to significantly reduce our over-reliance on personal vehicles as well as limit the amount of single-occupancy car trips that are taken each day. Portland’s scooter pilot, for example, reported that a mere 34% of riders would have taken a car if scooters weren’t available for the trip, meaning that more people are growing not only accustomed to these new forms of mobility but are also actively using them and becoming more aware as to their environmental and economic benefits.  

VOi’s survey regarding the effects of shared micromobility and how it impacts citizens’ car use has shown some very promising results. It was established that over one-third (36%) of users say they have drastically or altogether replaced their private vehicle as a result of the availability of shared micromobility services. A further 27% of users report they use cars significantly less than before. This essentially gives us an indication that users of shared micromobility have established this mode of transport as a viable alternative to their personal cars when it comes to making trips in urban areas.

Interestingly, the increase in adoption of micromobility services is even more prominent for residents of suburbs, who seem to have reduced their car use to a larger extent than the people living within the city center. This may be another sign that shared micromobility is used in combination with public transport, or as an alternative to cars in areas with insufficient public transport coverage. What is even more surprising is that over 55 % of VOi’s global riders report that they combine the use of micromobility services such as e-scooters with public transport for their daily commute, indicating that shared micromobility is complementing mass transit services rather than competing with them. 

Micromobility offers low-cost personal transportation to residents of cities

Micromobility vehicles in the form of e-scooters and e-bikes are significantly cheaper when compared to buying or renting a car. Furthermore, e-scooter owners or users (if renting) can save on maintenance and fuel costs since e-scooters and other micromobility devices are essentially made of fewer parts and don’t consume fuel. Thanks to their cost-saving benefits, micromobility options have become a popular mode of transportation for university students and young working adults who are looking to keep some money in their pockets while also caring for the environment and being conscious of their carbon footprint.  

Micromobility additionally provides an efficient and low-cost transport alternative for low-income families in cities and suburbs who cannot afford a car and rely heavily on public transit systems but could have a hard time getting to transit stops, hence the advantage of micromobility in supplementing first-last mile journeys. According to NACTO, an average 12-minute trip with an e-scooter cost around $2.80 to $4.70 depending on the system. Many providers of shared micromobility services offer discounted fare structures, credit-free access, and non-smartphone access for lower-income residents and individuals without bank accounts. 

Micromobility provides more economic advantages than cars

Micromobility offers multiple economic benefits, both for individual users and for municipalities as a whole. For residents of cities, the cost of purchasing and maintaining a bicycle or e-scooter is usually much lower than that of a car, making micromobility an affordable transportation option for many urban residents. Cities authorities can additionally save money when it comes to infrastructure since micromobility vehicles require less space than cars as well as resources. This can free up much-needed funds for other important urban projects, such as improving public transportation networks or investing in more green spaces that improve the lives of residents. 

Micromobility has the potential to accommodate a large number of the trips Americans take each day, by providing greener and more efficient transportation alternatives to using personal cars, at a much lower economic and environmental cost. Cars can be inefficient and expensive in terms of initial purchase, fuel, and maintenance costs which amount to quite a lot on an annual basis, not to mention further expenses such as parking, taxes, and congestion charges. 

If we are to look at the available statistics, driving a car is thought to be about 150-400 times the cost of operating an electric scooter. A typical electric scooter with a 1kw of battery capacity can travel for about 40 miles per charge. If we factor in the cost of charging it to its maximum, it would be $0.15 per charge, which amounts to $0.004 per mile. This allows a person to commute a distance of 30,000 miles throughout the battery’s life span, amounting to $0.03-$0.06 for every mile. In comparison, the actual cost of driving your car could be as high as $13 per mile. Although electric mobility can not replace cars altogether, especially for long-distance trips, it can certainly save households a lot of money in the long run, particularly for daily commutes in bigger cities. 

Micromobility devices are more energy-efficient than private vehicles 

Micromobility options such as e-bikes are reported to have the lowest life-cycle energy requirements and GHG emission impact per km. This is primarily due to the low requirements for material per vehicle, as well as the absence of external energy required for the operation of the device. It’s widely considered that if the energy used to recharge the battery for electric vehicles comes from renewable sources, they can become completely zero-emission. 

Furthermore, it’s estimated that energy and GHG emissions from cars have an impact per km that is more than double that of buses and significantly larger than in the case of any form of micromobility (mopeds, bikes, e-scooters). Across all private cars, electric and electrified vehicles perform better in terms of energy use than vehicles burning fossil fuels in internal combustion engines. Even more so, an increased uptake of electric micromobility in cities could play a crucial role in the transition to greener energy sources in urban transport. 

It’s also worth noting that micromobility solutions such as e-scooters aren’t just energy efficient, they’re also capital efficient. For the price of a single Tesla Model 3 vehicle, costing approximately $53,000, you could purchase more than 100 high-quality electric scooters. And while there are certain conditions under which a scooter won’t be suitable such as bad weather, long-distance travel, moving luggage, or kids, it’s worth considering that roughly 60 percent of U.S. trips are under 5 miles and most of the time drivers ride alone. This indicates that micromobility services can be used for replacing a significant amount of car trips, whenever possible.  

Micromobility helps supplement and create more efficient transportation networks

Micromobility solutions are designed to complement existing public transportation networks, providing much-needed improvements in first and last-mile connectivity as a way of bridging the service gaps between commuters’ homes or workplaces and public transit stops. The first/last mile dilemma tends to impact low-income residents the most since they are more likely to not own a car and would have to rely on public transportation. Micromobility services such as bike-sharing, e-bike, or e-scooter programs can revolutionize transportation for people who live far from public transit, improving accessibility for everyone. By placing bicycle docks near train stations, cities can make it easier for residents to travel to transit stops and connect to other modes of transport that let them access important societal facilities. 

Micromobility services are very useful in facilitating multimodality since they can be carried on board a train or in the subway meaning they can effectively supplement gaps in current services in the so-called first (or last) mile, making it easier for residents of cities to leave their car at home, even for medium-length urban commutes or journeys that are not directly served by public transport networks. This makes mass transit more accessible and could encourage more frequent use of public transport, something which is already a high priority for city planners and officials as it’s considered among the most sustainable and efficient ways to travel. Micromobility devices are also very lightweight, which means that for the same mileage, they still consume much less energy than an electric or conventional vehicle. 

Recent studies depict the potential of integrating micromobility with public transit to create more efficient, sustainable, flexible, and door-to-door service for passengers, as well as applying it to combat excessive car use in urban regions. Other implications of this form of integration correspond directly with the current need for reducing the environmental impact of urban travel, traffic, and air pollution. Data further shows that the accessibility to public transport increased from 21% to 68% when micromobility was integrated as an option.  

Micromobility has the potential to reduce noise and air pollution

The last available statistics for the global impact of air pollution show us that ambient (outdoor) air pollution caused over 4.2 million premature deaths worldwide in 2019. It’s currently estimated that by replacing a significant portion of car trips with zero-emission electric vehicles in the form of e-bikes and e-scooters, cities can dramatically reduce their carbon footprint as well as improve the quality of air in cities. Doing so will have a positive impact on the health of citizens, by limiting a portion of the pollution-related disease and fatalities as well as the economic costs and strain on the healthcare sector.  

Air pollution has a tremendous impact on people’s health, however, noise pollution plays its role as well, according to the World Health Organization. It’s considered that around 97% of people in the United States are exposed to traffic noise from nearby roads. Heavy traffic is measured to be about 80 decibels, which is about the same as a loud restaurant. Current recommendations suggest that people should be exposed to no more than 40 decibels of noise outside their bedrooms. While e-bikes and e-scooters make some form of noise, they are not even close to being as loud as cars, trucks, or motorcycles.  

Micromobility has shown promising results in fighting traffic congestion 

Micromobility encompasses a variety of transportation options that can suit the needs and preferences of citizens, including bicycles, e-bikes, e-scooters, and other electric-powered devices designed for individual use. These vehicles provide a variety of benefits over traditional cars, particularly in densely populated regions where traffic congestion is severe daily. By allowing for a more efficient and environmentally friendly alternative to personal automobiles, micromobility can reshape the urban transportation sector by significantly reducing traffic congestion in cities. Data shows that for 2022 congestion cost the U.S. economy more than 81 billion. According to transportation data company Inrix, it was reported that the average driver spent around 15 more hours in traffic than in 2021, for a total of 51 hours, equating to $869 in lost time. Additionally, automobile owners spent $134 more on fuel than they did the previous year. 

Micromobility is far more affordable, easier to operate and its ability to alleviate traffic congestion can be extremely valuable for cities experiencing this problem since it reduces the number of cars on the road. As more people choose bicycles, e-scooters, and other compact vehicles for their short-distance trips, there will be significantly fewer cars on the roads and highways competing for space that is already limited. This can effectively reduce travel times, lessen gridlocks, and contribute to a more efficient transportation system overall. Additionally, since micromobility vehicles are generally smaller, more compact, and easier to maneuver than cars, they can easily navigate through congested streets as well as take up less space when parked. 

A mobility solution that’s better for the environment  

In addition to reducing traffic congestion, micromobility can also help in decreasing air pollution and CO2 emissions. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, transportation accounts for over 29% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, with the majority of these emissions coming from cars and trucks. By replacing a significant portion of car trips with zero-emission electric vehicles like e-bikes and e-scooters, cities can significantly reduce their carbon footprint and improve air quality. This, in turn, can lead to numerous public health benefits, including reduced rates of respiratory illnesses and other pollution-related health problems.  

Ujet and Sustainability report that by replacing 8% of road vehicles with electric vehicles, over 80% of emissions can be reduced by 2050. This will have a significant and positive impact on the environment, especially in the long run. If more cities encourage the use of personal or shared micromobility services, it could be possible to move toward meeting sustainability goals, effectively reducing air pollution and improving the quality of life for residents of those areas. When roads clear up, there will be fewer vehicles on the road that emit greenhouse gasses in the form of carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane along with other harmful gasses. Since micromobility devices do not require the use of engines and do not consume fuel, these types of vehicles will not release any harmful emissions into the atmosphere.  

Conclusion 

Many of the challenges that cities face today when it comes to transportation have a lot to do with our overdependence on cars. To effectively address this issue, shared mobility companies will need to collaborate and work closely with public transport providers and city officials to ensure that such initiatives have a better chance of succeeding, in the long run. In the future, it will be important for cities to prioritize and allocate more space to walking, cycling, and public transport as well as for shared mobility. By ensuring that micromobility and public transportation are working together to become the fastest, most convenient, and cost-effective option for most urban trips, integration can lead to improved urban mobility, better air quality, fewer greenhouse gas emissions, and more livable cities.

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