What's New in City Design

Micromobility



Micromobility refers to low speed (< 15 miles/hour) vehicles such as bicycles, scooters, skateboards and other rideables.  They may be owned or shared, human powered or power assist, and docked or dockless. While shared use models of bikes and scooters draw the most attention, there is substantial growth in sales to individuals. Most attention to micromobility fouses on shared-used companies, however, owned models will also contribute to demand for infrastructure and parking. As such cities and campuses should look at all aspets of micromobility.


Benefits & Problems Addressed

First/Last mile access to transit: Small. lightweight vehicles increase access to transit stations.

Satisfy short tripmaking: Micromobility can satisfy trips under 5 miles with scooters, bicycles and e-bikes. In addition, e-mobility works in hilly areas where biking can be a challenge.

Low impact transportation: These no or low power vehicles have a smaller carbon footprint and make more effect use of parking and infrastructure as compared to an automobile trip.

Expansion of mobility to traditionally underserved areas: Early data shows an expansion of options to mobility deserts (not well served by transit and/or with low auto ownership)

New avenues for transportation data; Shared use mobility and opt-in data collection from riders through mobile apps provide information on the performance of the mobility system, in particular when trips are carried out with multiple modes.  


Tips & Techniques

Getting started: Most communities begin by working from existing bicycle and pedestrian plans.

Working with shared mobility companies: In the past, many companies by-passed discussion with cities and deployed scooters without advanced warning. Companies are beginning to work proactively, though communities should prepare goals and initial performance expectations prior to micromobility launches. First-adopter cities are building programs and web pages, which can serve as resources with information on permit language, data, enforcement, and public outreach.

Pilot programs: Given the novel nature of micromobility, most cities and campuses choose to develop a contained pilot (or test) program. These can be included within a permit or as a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). Results of the first generation of pilots revealed top priorities: tension in setting a cap on the number of vehicles paired with coverage rules and short response times; inclusion of scooters into other transportation apps, company-sponsored infrastructure upgrades and the use of in-app education and rider engagement

Integrating transportation plans and programs: As the share of micromobility trips grows, transportation managers are working to understand and integrate these modes into plans, programs and projects. Some cities have created Micromobility web pages to communicate pilot project results and next steps on shared bikes and scooters.At a larger level, these modes will also be integrated into Transportation Plans and subplans (i.e. Active Transportation, First/Last Mile).

Forecasts: In 2019, docked-based and dockless micromobility, is expected to see continued growth, not only in numbers, but also in geographic distribution, variety of bicycle models and personal mobility devices, pricing and subscription plans, and integration with other public and private transportation systems. Scooter maker Ninebot/Segways notes half of their sales are for private use (i.e. not to shared-use companies). They are also expanding sales to hotels and in delivery fleets. The result is increased pressure on infrastructure and more attention to scooter design (which is already under scrutiny for safety and subject to global recalls).

Geofencing: Some cities are employing geofencing (communications technology that sets digital boundaries). With geofencing, a vendor can issue an on-screen alert to a rider if they enter a no-go zone or are improperly parked. Vendors could also program scooters to power down if a rider enters a prohibited area. Geofencing can help with:

  • establishing go/no go zones
  • parking - where prohibited and where encouraged
  • setting incentives and disincentives (e.g. for parking)
  • helping vendors manage fleets

Data & Data Collection: Issues include (1) which data format(s), (2) how to collect data, (3) who collects data, (4) what data is open for use by local governments & the public, (5) how often an operator needs to and (6) how collected data is managed.

Increasingly, cities collect both electronically captured data feeds (refreshed every 30 seconds) and through surveys such as in-app surveys wherein a rider is promoted to fill out a survey prior to closing out a ride.  Los Angeles pioneered a new data feed, the Mobility Data Standard or MDS) for feeds from all micromobility vehicles and vehicle types.

Infrastructure: Infrastructure is among the top issues with micromobility, most notably use of scooters on sidewalks and bike trails. For sidewalks, cities are (1) Allowing and monitoring use on sidewalks, (2) banning sidewalk use in certain areas such as downtowns, or (3) disallowing use altogether. Most cities allow use in bike lanes, though largely prohibit use on trails (which routinely ban any types of motorized vehicles). Going forward, micromobility will feature more prominently in Complete Streets plans.

Parking: Parking within permits includes both restrictions and options:

  • Parking within the “furniture zone” of sidewalks
  • Parking co-located with docked bike share
  • Parking co-located with bike racks and placed close to bike infrastructure
  • Parking corrals (Six to twenty bicycles can fit in a single on-street parking space)

Equity: Dockless bikeshare requires users to have smartphones, internet plans, and credit cards for access, thereby excluding lower income and other users without access to technology.

Enforcement: Permits stipulate enforcement activities from both operators and jurisdictions. Operator requirements can include call centers, bike maintenance, and required response times. Jurisdictional enforcement includes cross-Department coordination, ability to move/impound vehicles as well as fines and/or cease & desist orders.

Another best practice is use of digital enforcement mechanisms, such as the ability to geofence equity areas to enforce distribution requirements, or cities that can easily pull reports on device state-of-repair. Hot Buttons:


Resources

NACTO: In June 2018, NACTO released Guidelines for the Regulation and Management of Shared Active Transportation. This guide provides a sweeping review of the technology, operations, and vehicles.

Shared Use Mobility Center (SUMC): The Shared-Use Mobility Center’s Policy Database provides a constantly updated page on shared use

Remix - Remix is a data-driven transportation firm.  Their Medium page on scooters includes a running list of articles on their work and analysis.

Smart Cities Dive has launches a running page and map - Mapping the impact of dockless vehicles

Innovative Mobility Research (IMR): This group compiles research on shared-use mobility.

Populus.ai  is a research firm specializing in shared-use mobility.

DePaul University developed a study on how specific networked trip configurations can influence travel times and accessibility (E-scooter Scenarios: Evaluating the Potential Mobility Benefits of Shared Dockless Scooters in Chicago,