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Will Micro-Mobility bring Micro or Macro Change?

The rising popularity of micro-mobility solutions should come as no surprise as we observe more and more tech-based start-ups offering dockless bicycles and e-scooters services worldwide – with significant growth seen particularly in parts of the US and China. It is said to be a booming industry, efficiently addressing the first-mile/last-mile problem for city commuters. A dockless bikesharing system in China called Mobike even claimed to have doubled citizens’ accessibility to jobs, education, and health care (1).

It’s important that governments and regulatory bodies such as district councils are more aware of the issues of congestion, pollution, and overload of public transportation systems due to rapid urbanisation. Companies also need to be thinking of ways to alleviate these issues. Micro-mobility seems to be a win-win situation – companies are able to profit from the increasing demand of alternative micro transportation methods, and the trend encourages citizens to be more eco-friendly in choosing their method of travelling.

However, it’s currently unclear whether some cities’ current infrastructure can cope with the large influx of micro vehicles on the roads and pavements. Large truck drivers may find it difficult to notice e-scooter riders whizzing past them – which could potentially be very dangerous for the riders and drivers, with a serious risk of accidents. Vehicle borrowers may also simply leave their vehicles at the most inconvenient places – narrowing pedestrian space and creating safety hazards. This could also lead to theft and vandalism, with an additional cost for either the borrowers or the providers.

There are solutions to reduce some of the problems. Safety videos or tutorials could be made compulsory for riders – as most of the accidents are due to rider neglect (2). Technology, such as remote monitors and advanced locking systems, is also being developed to monitor and minimise theft and vandalism. Transportation data companies could track micro-mobility vehicles, to understand the overall usability status and concentration of use depending on location. Bike lanes would need to be modified, as well as some public roads, which is no easy task. It will require intricate cooperation between multiple parties, including transportation data companies, regulatory bodies, government officials, micro-mobility solution providers, users, and the general public.

With any introduction of technology, existing regulations and approaches need to be revised and improved upon. Personally, I believe it’s worth the effort to make this happen. The wider goal, for countries to be more eco-friendly and reduce pollution (that is if cars are to be replaced!), is extremely important for the benefit of future generations. I’m optimistic that even if micro-mobility dies out in the next few years, other viable ‘green’ transport options could be offered with the incorporation of cutting-edge technology in place.

Sennett Leung