12 March, 2020

Challenges of integrating micro-mobility

Micromobility is quickly becoming the new normal in many cities across the world. The rise of shared bikes and e-scooters in places like Paris, Cophengahan, and San Francisco provides the population with a new seemingly eco-friendly form of short distance travel. Micromobility’s rise to fame is largely due to their cheap prices, availability, and close proximity to residential and shopping areas. With all the positives that shared bikes and electric scooters hold, there are also negatives. These downfalls are due to their lack of regulation, parking, and the way in which cities are designed.

The main factor impacting electric scooters success is public anger. Electric scooters, like other forms of dockless micro-mobility are parked on the sidewalk when not in use. The combination of inactive bulky electric scooters mixed with pedestrian foot traffic can lead to an array of problems. Pedestrians can trip and fall on unattend scooters, and inactive scooters can block entry and exit ways which is a major fire hazard. Parked scooters also produce an untidy appearance and usually don’t match a city’s aesthetic, which can diminish a city’s overall appearance. In order to solve these problems, a reliable docking or parking station must be put in place.

Since the creation of the first automobile cities have been tailored towards cars over all other forms of transportation; this means poorly placed subway entrances, large gaps between bus stops, and extremely scarce and narrow bike lanes. Due to the inadequate bike lanes that must be shared between cyclists, rollerbladers, and electric scooterists, problems have arisen. The first being areas in which it is safe to ride, bike paths are often short and incomplete which causes e-scooter riders to ride either on the sidewalk or on the road with cars. Riding on the sidewalk is illegal for riders and dangerous for pedestrians. While riding on the road with larger high speed vehicles increases the risk of a major accident.

Electric scooters are deemed eco-friendly when in operation; however, the way in which they are manufactured and charged is not eco-friendly. Research done at North Carolina State University has concluded that traveling by electric scooter produces more greenhouse gas emission per mile when compared to walking or cycling. It is not the scooters themselves that are environmentally unfriendly, but the materials used to manufacture the wheels, frame, and base. The method of rounding-up all the scooters with large vans, charging them overnight, and then returning the scooters in the morning is another factor in adding to electric scooters carbon emissions. Until electric scooter companies  discover a better way to create e-scooters and find a new eco-friendly way to charge said scooters they will remain environmentally unfriendly.

While the act of charging electric scooters, or “juicing”, can be seen as positive, there are still many negatives associated with the process. Juicing requires late hours, since scooters are charged at night, juicers have to collect and return scooters in total darkness. Collecting in the dark can be extremely dangerous and the locations provided for the scooters are not in real time and are often incorrect. Not to mention, the competition between juicers can be less than friendly and the CO2 emissions from the vehicles used to charge the scooters is less favorable. Overall, juicing is not an environmentally friendly way to properly charge electric scooters and juicers often don’t charge the scooter fully before returning them, which can be harmful to the battery.

Electric Scooters and other forms of micromobility provide alternate means of quick and cost efficient transportation. However, as vaillant as the e-scooters companies seem to be in providing cheap and eco-friendly services, electric scooters still have a long way to go until they meet that goal. Shared electric scooters on the market today are not as eco-friendly as once thought. While in theory, electric scooters seem like a good idea they still have a long way to come before they are completely safe and environmentally friendly.


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