17 sep 19

Do scooters replace cars?

Shared e-scooters were supposed to compete with cars, making urban transport and commuting more flexible, faster, cheaper and greener. Yet, is this assumption valid? 

In Brussels, the heart of the European Union, Brussels Mobility surveyed 1,181 scooter users online. They noticed an important difference between scooter-owners and shared scooter-users. In the first category of scooter riders 44% reported to use the scooter as a replacement for the car. 

When it comes to users of shared scooters, rather than the ones owning one, one fourth of them says to use the scooter instead of the car, while the majority would use the scooter as a replacement for public transport (72%), walking (45%), or cycling (20%). 

Scooter vs car: 1-0

The numbers elsewhere in the world are not very far from the ones registered in Brussels. In the US, based on research of scooter company Lime, 30% of its riders reported to use the e-scooter to replace a car ride, while 10% used it as replacement for public transit, and 7 to 8% would not have performed the ride at all.  

Research of Portland’s e-scooter pilot program PBOT surveying customers of Bird, Lime and Skip – three scooter giants – shows a similar result. In case of the locals, 34% of the scooter trips replace some kind of car usage (19% personal car, and 15% ride hailing and taxis), whereas among visitors and tourists the number grows up to 48% (34% ride hailing and taxis, and 14% personal cars). 


Yet, since 46% of car traffic in the US exists of trips less than three miles, and 60% are less than 5 miles, there is a huge market for scooters and other micromobility modes to replace the car. This potential must have been noticed by the big ride hailing companies, since they are increasingly investing in micromobility modes such as scooters and/or bikes as an alternative for car rides. 

In July, Uber reported that rides on its Jump e-bikes, only several months after the shared e-bike platform had been acquired by Uber, have been cannibalizing Uber riders, especially during periods of high traffic congestion. 


An important shortcoming of all these surveys and research is that they are based on self-reported data, rather than systematic analysis, which means that these numbers might be biased. Neutral data-driven research should give a clearer answer. 

Yet, in the meantime, what we can see are following trends in various cities in Europe and the US:

  • Public transit usage is declining– regardless the introduction of new mobility modes
  • Micromobility modes, such as shared scooters and bikes are increasing
  • Cities are facing more congestion and environmental issues, making commuters look for more flexible and/or greener commute modes, such as (shared) bikes and scooters
  • Micromobility could bring more people to public transit by providing a green and flexible first and/or last mile
  • Ride hailing companies are investing more in micromobility modes as well, becoming a multimodal provider, rather than a car-only provider
Authored by: Fien Van den steen