You’ve seen them. Perhaps you were stuck in traffic, or maybe you were walking along the sidewalk when you spotted a small, two-wheeled conveyance rolling along. And if you’re clever, you likely recognized what that shared bike, e-scooter, or electric moped truly represents: the present and future of mobility in the city. These small, personal transports are part of the trend toward micro-mobility.
City residents favor micro-mobility solutions for their ease and convenience. Yet for a city planner, they represent a challenge. Adding small, shareable vehicles to an established, car-oriented urban landscape is neither easy nor straight forward.
To make these new solutions succeed at scale, planners have to reconsider how best to use their roads, how to use shared mobility to their advantage, and how adding micro-mobility boosts the health and efficiency of their city streets. It’s all part of a parking evolution that has been underway for some time, and FlashParking has the tools to help.
“Cities on the forefront of innovation are giving way to bikes and scooters on the roadways while intelligently easing dependence on personally-owned cars.”
What Is Micro-Mobility?
Like many questions that seem obvious at the outset, the answer to that query is more technical than you might expect. Most people can agree that micro-mobility neatly encompasses a class of small-form personal vehicles that weigh less than 1,000 lbs, often have electric power, can transport two people at the most, and have a top speed of ~30 mph.
From a planning point of view, it’s more useful to set the technical details on the back burner and consider the value that micro-mobility really represents to a city.
It’s a first- and last-mile solution, enabling residents to easily travel the small distances between larger and less flexible modes of transit. It’s a congestion deterrent, and it’s a pollution reducer—lowering the number of cars on the roads and using electric power over gas. It’s a low overhead revenue generator, where third parties manage logistics and upkeep.
Micro-mobility provides trackless, flexible transport, deployable in different places at different times according to demand. Used strategically, these modes of travel can help ease urban inequity by bringing new options to transit deserts where populations are underserved by public transport.
And worth mentioning, it’s also rather fun.
Can Cities and Micro-Mobility Get Along?
They can. Some city planners might wince at the mere suggestion of micro-mobility—and that’s understandable. The San Francisco scooter wars, where city regulators and mobility companies went head-to-head, were well-publicized. That time is over. Everyone has learned their lesson.
Cut to today: shared-mobility providers are no longer looking to blitzscale their way into the city streets. They’ve grown up, and they’re actively seeking partnerships with both city-owned and commercial parking spaces. FlashParking provides the services and monitoring necessary to blend traditional vehicles and micro-mobility solutions and make these partnerships efficient.
At a city-wide scale, the power is in the urban planner’s hands—so it’s up to city managers to make sure that alternative transportation, public transit, and residents all come together fluidly.
The Surge of Demand For Micro-Mobility
Even before the global pandemic hit, the popularity of micro-mobility was in a groundswell. The increase in demand fell in line with a worldwide trend of consumers shifting toward an idea of access over ownership. This shift in consumer perspective draws a stark comparison in choices.
Buy any vehicle at full cost, pay for maintenance, upkeep, storage, and take on the risk of theft or damage. Or, subscribe to a service for less money and enjoy full access to a vehicle that someone else maintains. We’re big fans of the latter option.
This idea of access-oriented mobility truly took root in commuters’ consciousness when cities began struggling to cope with the spread of COVID. Practically overnight, residents nearly abandoned public transit, taxis, ride-hailing, and car-sharing. They actively avoided any mode of transport where they couldn’t control proximity to other people. On the other side of the spectrum, bike shares, personally-owned bikes, and scooters experienced a sudden boost in use.
The data points to a scenario worth examining. People still need to move around and commute. To boost their sense of personal security, city residents are isolating. They’re driving their own vehicles as close as they can get to their destinations, utilizing smart parking facilities with shared mobility access, and opting for bikes or scooters for their last mile solutions. Cities need to make a path for residents who want to take this route.
How Cities Can Optimize For Micro-Mobility
There is an innovative, cost-efficient measure available for city planning that can answer commuter demand, enable positive change, improve neighborhood quality, and promote the use of micro-mobility: reduce on-street parking.
On-street parking is a big barrier for cities that want to provide residents with bike- and scooter-friendly roads. It is not a comfortable arrangement. Anyone who has ever ridden a bike or a scooter in a city knows the stress of being sandwiched between block-after-block of parked cars on one side and high-speed traffic on the other. Throw in a double-parked delivery vehicle in your path, and you really get a full cardio workout (or at least, the elevated heart rate).
Additionally, reducing on-street parking is not exactly an unprecedented strategy during the time of COVID. Several cities are already giving curb-side space back to the public. By eliminating parked cars and scheduling street closures during off-peak traffic hours, residents have a place to get outside. Local businesses and restaurants have a way to stay open and stay socially distanced. There’s a restored sense of community, and many city dwellers are hopeful that these changes will continue beyond the pandemic.
The benefits to a city are clear. Reducing on-street parking promotes safety—providing room for bikes and scooters to move freely without being pushed into traffic or onto the sidewalks. Moving parked cars off the street reduces congestion (and pollution) caused by double-parked delivery vehicles or drivers clumsily trying to parallel park.
Perhaps most beneficial of all is that this approach is low cost. There are no significant infrastructure investments. Streets will not need to be closed to make this conversion. Enabling micro-mobility takes the space that cities already have, removes the giant stationary objects, and makes more room for people in motion.
Shifting To a Multimodal Transport Mindset
Cars aren’t going anywhere. Whether they’re personally-owned or shared, vehicles still need a place where they can park safely. Likewise, public transit is a valuable and essential service, despite experiencing a temporary downturn in use. Micro-mobility services need space to park in logical proximity to other modes of transport.
What’s needed are mobility hubs—a location where commuters and residents can seamlessly and reliably shift from one mode of transit to another. A vital element of any city mobility hub is an intelligent, feature-rich parking facility where drivers want to park. FlashParking solutions offer what drivers and facility managers are looking for. That includes access to EV charging stations, tracking car and lot utilization, or easy access to bikes, scooters, and mopeds.
Guiding drivers into city-run parking lots and garages carries financial as well as logistical benefits. Parking meters no longer need monitoring and maintenance. Drivers who stay longer than planned can have their charges adjusted positively, rather than being penalized with traffic tickets. Cities can more accurately track the number of cars coming and going from a central area, enabling smarter decisions about where infrastructure needs expansion.
Where Does Micro-Mobility Go From Here?
Cities on the forefront of innovation are embracing multi-modal mobility giving way to bikes and scooters on the roadways while intelligently easing dependence on personally-owned cars. Done right, this makes micro-mobility a staple in the broader ecosystem of a city’s transportation system. By making smart infrastructure decisions and providing commuters more choices in how they move from A to B, city planners are already preparing their roads for the next wave of transport innovation.
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