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Rethinking Bike Lanes: The Micromobility Lane

With more light vehicles entering the transport arena, it might be time for us to review the way we see bike lanes, as suggested by Terenig Topjian, the founder of Have a Go (a site dedicated to facilitating the move away from cars towards micromobility vehicles). Topjian describes his vision of infrastructure for micromobility vehicles beyond the bike lanes. [1]

Many people, including city authorities, are aware of the benefits that cycling brings; however, bike lanes are still like patches on clothes – a few miles of asphalt bike lanes here and there with barely any separation from other transport modes, meaning hardly any protection from, for example, cars. Today’s bike infrastructure barely serves or protects existing cyclists, let alone other users from micromobility modes such as e-scooters. So, how can we change this and how should the appropriate infrastructure be built if we are allowed to dream big? Here’s what Topjian suggests:

  • Leave the twig-based model and plan big: Bike infrastructure has been created reactively with the lowest cost and smallest change among other traffic infrastructure. With an increasing number of users squeezing into the bike lanes, bike infrastructure should be planned with a holistic view and built with comparable resources as were spent on the infrastructure for cars.
     
  • Big bike infrastructure project: Financial support for building bike infrastructure is nowhere near as large as it should be. Micromobility users and operators should demand better infrastructure in the city, exactly like the car actors did. Bigger infrastructure projects receive more attention and spark the imagination, leading to better potential for smart developments.  
     
  • Citywide networks of protected “micromobility lanes”: Bike lanes are no longer only for bikes. Many other users drive all sorts of small vehicles in the same lane. Rethinking the concept of bike lanes and redesigning them so the infrastructure is suitable for its users is crucial to provide safe and equitable transportation to citizens.
     
  • Priority streets for micromobility users: Cars should be the slowest and least-prioritized transport mode among all in the traffic, which would then match the vision that many cities claim to have. Yet, today, car lanes take up the most space in the city. If we are to promote cycling, the infrastructure should also be there to show for it.
     
  • Micromobility elevated freeways: Battery-powered micromobility modes such as e-scooters and electric bikes have elevated capabilities compared to human-powered bikes in terms of speed and riding experience. They are transport alternatives that allow for time savings of up to 70 percent in city centres [2].

If you have doubts about the micromobility Futurama, try to think about the journey that the automobile industry went through. Would cars have become a modern means of transportation if we did not have access to affordable fuel, gas stations, highways and driver education? 

 

Personal Comments

The appearance of micromobility does not only require the authorities to impose radical changes in terms of rules and regulations, but now also infrastructure. Topjian argues that micromobility actors should start to demand an infrastructure revolution that puts light vehicles in focus, and the scale of the project should be at least comparable to what cities invested in building infrastructure for cars. His words sound logical but the idea still seems far-fetched considering the nature of light vehicles: of low commercial value with a history of being adaptive and flexible.

Our contemporary innovative transportation solutions, such as autonomous vehicles and micromobility, are putting more demands on the infrastructure; yet, what to prioritize and how the infrastructure can be planned for both modes are big challenges for this century.

 

Written by Anne Faxér, RISE Viktoria.

 

Sources

1. 2019-10-04. Why We Need to Dream Bigger Than Bike Lanes.

2. 2019-09-09. Electric scooters would beat cars on up to 70 per cent of city center journeys, study reveals.