What next on the radar of micromobility for smarter cities of the future?
With commuters edging to get out of the house and back on the roads, governments are called to re-think e-scooter schemes and what a micromobile future might look like.
The UK government recently announced it’s fast-tracking changes to transport laws that will enable scooters in one of its most congested cities, London. Last week, policy makers urgently legislated scooters from companies such as Lime, Tier and Voi Technology legal in a nationwide trial.
How might this change sit with the rest of the world?
It’s a milestone for the UK, a country which has typically lagged behind, widely banning scooters on its roads, with some restrictive laws dating back to as early as 1835.
Last year, the government had gone so far as to say legislation on e-scooters was a barrier to innovation. They planned for 2021 to be the year for small-scale trials in UK cities – but the process to change this legislation has moved faster than expected.
In New Zealand, policy makers are similarly recently reevaluated the nation’s e-scooter policies. A recent favourable vote in its capital city meant doors will be open once again to Lime, in a public electric scooter share scheme following an initial six-month trial with operators Flamingo and Jump.
Back in 2019, there was widespread wariness of e-scooters and whether they could be used responsibly amongst Wellington Councillors. Deputy mayor Sarah Free said, “I feel like a bomb is going to be dropped on the footpath,” whereas Councillor Nicola Young described a situation of “anarchy on Wellington streets, we’ve got skateboarders, we’ve got Onzos, and now we’ve got e-scooters- and pedestrians are really scared.”
Now, participating Councillors are unanimous e-scooters are here to stay and that their initial concerns may have been unfounded.
The increasing commitment of e-scooters may represent a changing sentiment that will see micromobility a more accepted part our future.
The Wellington Council votes included amendments to how e-scooters could be stored and how fast they could be ridden as part of wider infrastructure changes. One successful amendment was to speed up talks about smart city infrastructure to enable safer parking. Another was agreement to tweak in the speed limit to 15km/h along Wellington city’s waterfront and shared pathways, using geo-fencing technology.
Policy makers also committed to a heavier emphasis on e-scooter companies in New Zealand that demonstrate good end of life plans, including the dismantling, reuse and recycling of parts.
Despite changing sentiment about e-scooters, policy change sits on the back of latest McKinsey research indicating that during COVID-19 consumer mobility has dropped more than 50% across some countries and cities with global social distancing requirements.
Automotive World explains that in COVID-19 times micromobility operators are facing a double challenge: they are experiencing less demand, but also threatened by the increased contamination risks involved in using shared assets.
These challenges have led micromobility players like Lime to withdraw from many cities across Europe.
What advances are needed for a firmer future for e-scooters and micromobility? Automotive World recommends three:
- AI-based real-time location data analytics to optimise demand-response patterns and recharging efficiencies.
- Advanced fleet management and asset tracking telematics for cost-effective redistribution of vehicles and battery swapping practices.
- Advanced location tracking to retrieve stolen vehicles based on indoor location and Low-Power Wide-Area (LPWA) connectivity.
Despite immediate challenges from COVID-19, things are looking up for a more micromobile future. Innovations in how we get around in urban settings are set to continue.
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