The Rise Of Micro-Mobility: A Short-Lived Trend or Here To Stay?

It is a more and more widely acknowledged reality that we are living in an urban age. With all the advances in communication, the internet has brought us and speedily expanding infrastructure, if you want to make it big, you’re going to the city to do so. However, this trend is also creating more and more clumped up streets, tightly-packed city blocks, and most importantly – traffic. Young people who cannot afford cars are already overloading the public transport system as it is, but even those who can buy an automobile are faced with long traffic jams that sometimes siphon whole hours from your day, something that’s not just an annoyance, but a genuine danger to one’s career. Of course, the widespread construction of metro systems across North America and Europe helps alleviate this problem, as the underground has, by definition, no traffic jams. But everyone who’s relied on this mode of transportation for getting around town can tell you, even if it’s fast, the long waits are still there, not to mention the overcrowded subway cars. So then, what is the solution to this ever-increasing friction frustration? Allow me to introduce you to a concept you are probably already at least vaguely familiar with, especially if you live in a large city.

Micro-mobility – the intercity traveling revolution. Micro-mobility takes the form of many vehicles designed explicitly for the densely-populated center of the city, fuel-efficient and able to go where your typical car or bus can’t, be they the good old fashioned bicycle, or modern electric scooter. The latter is significantly gaining popularity in recent years due to several factors. Among them is the fact that they are generally more comfortable to use and safer than a bike. More importantly, a lot of them are rentable and can be picked up and left wherever you please, thus directly streamlining the fast point A to B process, eliminating any time dealing with cashiers or returning them to their original location. These sleek machines are often equipped with hub motors, typically ranging from 300 to 400W. Of course, they are available for purchase for personal use, should you feel inclined to own one of these 21st-century innovations for yourself.

Now, going back to the main issue at hand and the title of this piece: Will this be a revolution for cosmopolitan transportation, or is it just a fad? To answer this, we need to look at how and why this trend correlates with the change in our economic landscape, as well as a few other factors. In my opinion, while certain companies and modes of micro-mobility such as the aforementioned “pick up and go” type scooters might be abandoned by the majority of the consumer base, the overall ideas and factors that led towards it will not. Cities will only become denser and denser, expanding with the ever-rising populace and trends of overpopulation. Combined with the fact infrastructure such as highways and subway tunnels is limited and the deeper or higher you go the more the costs of building and maintaining these roads rises, means that your average scooter, bike or even Segway might just become even more useful and convenient. The other factor that you would think doesn’t play a big part, but on the contrary does, is terrain. Most American cities are generally-speaking flat, that being less so for Europe. However, cities with hilly terrain or bad road infrastructure are very unlikely to implement micro-mobility vehicles other than heavy or expensive ones such as mountain bikes. Things like scooters aren’t made to operate in these conditions (yet). That said, in metropolitan areas, these same relatively low-powered vehicles are quite cost-effective and flexible, a powerful combination thanks to which we can see a significant success not only in the adaption of the lifestyle, but in the growth of companies providing it.

Of course, we can’t go without mentioning the negative sides of this new movement, such as many abandoned rental units around the city in various unsafe and inadequate places, sometimes even creating road hazards and literal littering. Still, one must understand these are growing pains for a new type of emerging business and as is with bad parking, it might not go away. Still, the blame shouldn’t be put on the vehicle manufacturers, but some of the irresponsible consumers themselves. Only the future itself will tell what the fate of micro-mobility and its various implementations will be, but we can’t say it’s not interesting to speculate! 

Author: Brandon Park