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Scooters Show Promise Over Bikes for Shareability

MIT researchers have shown in a significant academic study that scooter-sharing schemes have outpaced bike-sharing schemes in terms of the number of trips and size of fleet in Singapore. [1, 2] 

Rui Zhu, one of the researchers involved, put it this way: “Our results showed increased sharing frequency and decreased fleet size for scooter-sharing, suggesting that it performs better than bike-sharing.” [2] These results are informative and should help policymakers in their post-Covid push for increasing mobility while decreasing both emissions and maintaining social-distancing. 

The study found that there was quite a difference between the average number of trips per day. Bikes saw an average of less than one trip per day. Scooters, on the other hand, saw an average of three trips per day for each scooter. This was somewhat surprising because it was also discovered that scooters, unlike their bike counterparts, were much more likely to be left outside of their official parking or charging locations. This raises the costs of maintaining the fleet. However, it was also shown “that over 28 percent and 26 percent of trips departed from and arrived at non-stations respectively, suggesting that users actually utilized most of the inappropriately returned scooters.” [2] This means that the impact of free-floating scooters on the overall business model of scooter-sharing schemes is not as negative as might at first appear. 

There is, however, room for improvement. Two areas are picked out for potential improvement: extending range and strategic locations. One of the main limiting factors for scooters is their range. By including either small solar panels on the scooters themselves or equipping docking stations with grid and solar charging the cost of operation can decrease and the hours of available use per scooter increased. As noted above a significant number of scooter trips either begin or end outside currently designated parking locations. By adjusting these locations, it may be possible to reduce fleet size and increase usage. [2] 

 

Personal comments

From an environmental and social sustainability perspective, this report is encouraging. Proponents of micro-mobility have argued that easily accessible electric-powered mobility solutions will lead to greater social accessibility and increased economic activity at a much lower carbon footprint cost than traditional private or public transportation solutions. [3] The data from this report appears to corroborate this hope. As the article and the report point out the technology and business models are not enough to realize the full potential. There is a significant role government, local and national, needs to play. It may be that the economic, social, and political pressures of Covid-19 will push both the industry and governing parties to move forward more quickly in this area. That would be a win-win for everyone. 

 

Written by Joshua Bronson, RISE.

 

Sources

1. 2020-03-27 Understanding spatio-temporal heterogeneity of bike-sharing and scooter-sharing mobility.
2. 2020-10-5 Comparing the benefits of scooter-sharing vs. bike-sharing
3. 2019-10-14 Micromobility: The Next Wave of Eco-friendly Transportation