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E-Scooters Are Here to Stay

The numbers are in from the National Association of Transportation Officials (NATCO) in the US: 2019 saw an impressive 60% increase from 2018 in micromobility trips across the US, with e-scooters making up 86m of the total 136m trips taken. [1] 

“To put those numbers in perspective: Two-thirds of all shared micromobility trips since 2010 have been made in the last two years.”[2] This means near exponential growth in pre-pandemic circumstances. As expected, there was a decrease in shared micromobility usage during the lockdown. However, those numbers have largely recovered now and have even expanded into new geographic areas outside of city centers as commuters avoid public transport.

The tail end of summer 2020 has seen economies around the world begin to regain traction. People are starting to commute, go to school, restaurants and generally move about. At the same time, people’s transportation behavior has changed, and this may mean an increased demand for shared micromobility. For instance, many bike shops are out of inventory and the demand for e-bikes in the US has increased a shocking 190%.[2] This suggests that 2020 may lead to an increased share of trips taken by micromobility solutions, both shared and private. 

Another reason to think micromobility may grow to meet changing transportation demands is expansion into new forms of micromobility. This can be seen in the expanding presence of electric moped startup Revel.[3] This small electric moped allows for greater range and therefore trips that would have been difficult on an e-scooter or bike. This should mean that commuters looking to make longer trips will have the option of a shared micromobility solution that wasn’t available in 2019, which in turn should mean more micromobility trips. This new form factor does not come without risk, and Revel has only recently bounced back after two fatal crashes in New York with new safety features that include a mandatory selfie with the provided helmet on.[4]

 

Personal comment

The apparent strength of micromobility coming out of the Covid pandemic is a good sign. It has the potential, if the trips replaced would have been by an ICE car, and if the longevity of the vehicle is a reasonable amount of time, that this could lead to significant emission reduction. Interesting, and encouraging, is Revel’s approach to maintaining their fleet. They have chosen to not use the standard gig economy model. CEO Frank Reig says that Revel “relies on a full-time staff of local workers.”[3] It is too early to tell how the competition will work its way out between gig economy business models and more traditional ones like Revel. Legal and regulatory contexts will have a significant impact. Whichever way it goes hopefully the well-known downsides of the gig economy can be done away with. 

 

Written by Joshua Bronson, RISE.

 

Sources

1. 2019-12-31 NATCO: Shared Micromobility in the U.S.:2019

2. 2020-08-27 U.S. Scooter Ridership Surged in 2019. Now What?

3. 2020-08-31 New scooters hit San Francisco streets

4. 2020-08-27 Electric moped startup Revel returns to New York with helmet selfie, other in-app safety features