9 Feb 21

“Pandemic accelerates micromobility”

‘Micro’ may mean ‘small’, but there’s nothing small about micromobility’s potential to boost your corporate mobility goals. In the run-up to a Smart Mobility Institute session on that very topic (see below), mobility expert Lukas Neckermann (pictured) offers an interesting take. “The pandemic is an accelerator for micromobility.”

Micromobility describes the range of small and lightweight vehicles – bicycles, e-bikes, scooters, you name it – designed to move people at relatively low speeds over relatively short distances. Think of it as the ‘last mile delivery’ bit of personal transport. 

Great increase
It’s one of those business areas often described as an ecosystem – ironically, that’s quite appropriate, because it’s teeming with fast-evolving new life-forms. 

“We’re witnessing a great increase in the diversity of micromobility vehicles,” says Mr Neckermann. “It’s no longer just about bicycles, mopeds, scooters. The lines are starting to blur. Is a three-wheeled e-scooter with a powerful motor and a seat still micromobility?”

That’s just one example of the many species now roaming the streets of cities around the world. The diversity is spurred on by providers looking to stand out, and to cater for divergent audiences and different circumstances. “Various factors are at play. Topography, for one. The micromobility options on offer in hilly San Francisco will be different from those, say, in the Netherlands.” 

Puzzled authorities
“And then there are the differences between the user groups themselves. Kickscooters and escooters have generally been aimed at 20- and 30-somethings, but in some places – Tel Aviv, notably – they also have appeal to 40-somethings.”

That bewildering variety makes it hard for corporates and cities to come up with a holistic approach to micromobility. “Authorities are puzzled by the new vehicle types, all with their own weights, safety features, and maximum speeds. Can they use the bicycle paths? Should drivers wear a helmet?”

It seems as if micromobility vehicles are becoming as individualistic as the people they transport – typically, one per vehicle. Still, a difficulty to pigeonhole these ‘mehicles’ should not prevent authorities – nor corporates – to engage with them, says Mr Neckermann. 

Pandemic transport

Public transport is a mobility option that has suffered severely from the impact of the coronavirus – where possible, users have heeded the call to socially isolate and have avoided taking the bus, train or metro. 

“It’s safe to say that of all mobility modes, public transport has likely been the biggest victim of Covid-19. And because lack of users translates into lack of revenue, it also means a lack of investment in innovation. Unfortunately, it will take fairly long – surely two to three years, in my opinion – before it recovers in terms of ridership levels.”

Urban rethink

Bad news for public transport may translate into good news for micromobility. “Since two-wheelers are a mainly individual transport mode, virus concerns are much less acute. I would even foresee a realignment of MaaS solutions: whereas today, many solutions are centred on public transport, they may well turn to integrating micromobility instead. The pandemic may actually act as an accelerator for micromobility.”

How strong that acceleration will be, depends on the permanency of available micromobility infrastructure. “Many major cities have used the pandemic to implement lanes for bikes and other micromobility vehicles in their centres – in Europe this includes Milan, Paris, Madrid and Berlin. Will they resist the post-pandemic pressure to re-convert those lanes back to automobile use?”

Micromobility and infrastructure

The success of micromobility depends on a set of very local circumstances – including longer-term infrastructure decisions. “Micromobility is having a long-term effect on how residential buildings are designed. I’ve seen examples of property developers who normally would have provided a car parking space for every housing unit, but now deliver a complex with charging stations for cars and bikes, as well as spaces dedicated for shared and e-bikes, scooters, and so on.”

Corporates too are pivoting towards micromobility, as a valuable contributor to a wide range of mobility options on offer to their work force. 

Ticking boxes

“Micromobility ticks a number of important boxes. It offers interesting options to corporate fleets who are looking to provide a greater range of mobility alternatives to their drivers. As a result, lease companies are increasingly offering micromobility, typically as part of a mobility package that includes the use of an EV, access to public transport, and other options.”

Providing micromobility options can even help companies attract employees. “The younger generation of employees, especially those who live in urban centres, don’t particularly want a company car anymore. Micromobility is one of the alternatives that appeal to them. For companies themselves, it doesn’t just fit with their CSR policy and reduce the need for costly parking space, it also shows they’re embracing change and modernity,” Mr Neckermann concludes.

On 4 March, an online session of the Smart Mobility Institute (SMI) will zoom in on how e-mobility and micromobility can help your corporate fleet reduce its CO2 footprint. Click here for more information and to register

Image: Neckermann Strategic Advisors

Authored by: Frank Jacobs