COVID-19 has struck the mobility sector hard. While tech companies are asking their employees to work from home, rideshare giant Uber is expanding its sick pay to allow those who have been requested to be in the quarantine to receive financial assistance for up to 14 days. This is an improvement compared to the previous policy which only allowed those who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 to receive financial aid. Uber has also considered suspending rider and driver accounts of those who caught the virus. Lyft, Uber’s competitor, has a similar policy for drivers who are quarantined or are diagnosed with COVID-19. Yet, besides cancelling the possibilities to share rides, Uber and Lyft are still up and running in the virus-affected areas .
In addition to cancelled ridesharing, the virus has had a significant impact on shared mobility services, including car rental, carpooling and even public transport. With increasing stay-at-home warning and recommendations to practice social distancing, people are now avoiding busses or subways and even taxis to reduce their chances of catching the infection. The lockdown measures taken by several countries during the pandemic period have also impacted the local car rental services .
The rapidly spread virus also brought consequences for the fast-growing e-scooter business. Lime has announced a suspension of its e-scooter service in two dozen cities and countries, including Washington, California, Italy, France, and Spain. Bird has put a stop to its operation in six American cities and all of its European markets. Spin, Lyft, and JUMP, however, still continue with their operations in most of their markets today [1,3].
On the other hand, COVID-19 seems to have led to a rise in cycling. More people are picking up bikes as a transport alternative. A 70 % rise in bike traffic has been observed in New York City compared to the same period last year .
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed how things work in our society. While bringing horrible consequences to contemporary society and the lives of many, it also forces us to come up with solutions to cope during this special time. I see a challenging time ahead for the shared mobility business due to the drastic drop in numbers of trips made every day in general based on the stay-at-home recommendation, and the fact that recommendation of physical distancing makes almost all kinds of shared transport modes less favourable. Biking and even walking in the open air seem to have become a favourable transport option for city dwellers. It might be time for people to forge new travel behaviours or adopt another transport alternative that probably was not considered desirable before and also just happens to be more sustainable.
Written by Anne Faxér, RISE.
1. 2020-03-18. Mobility Companies React to COVID-19.
2. 2020-03-16. COVID-19: Mobility’s Catch 22.