Transport News

Rob’s Corner: Looking beyond the bicycle; options for the future of micro-mobility.

To reduce traffic and pollution in busy urban areas, electric micro-mobility schemes have been introduced in almost every major European city for trials. Renting bikes or e-scooters has been on an upwards trajectory. Lime has provided more than 250 million rides in more than 200 cities around the world [1]. They are, undoubtedly, a new form of convenience for the average urban commuter. In 2018, an estimated 5 million units of scooters were sold. By 2028, that number is expected to be 129 million units globally [2].

These transportation methods are a positive step forward in reducing carbon emissions made by buses, cars, and trains as these vehicles emit almost 90. Electric bicycles and scooters provide a very large convenience factor to their riders. They require less personal perseverance when riding and can travel about 24 to 32(KM/h) (enter KM/h in brackets) an acceptable speed in an urban environment. Indeed, the rider will be able to reach their distance at potentially a quicker time than taking public transport.  Moreover, storing these micro-mobility vehicles is not a major issue when renting from mobility as a service (MaaS) providers such as Lime, Bird, JUMP or Skip.

The regulation of e-scooters has been a hotly debated subject. To broaden your understanding of laws and regulations at the European level, read Smart Urban Mobility: Law, Regulation, and Policy (2020). (Click on image for link).

There have, however, been many rider and pedestrian safety concerns following accidents involving e-scooter use, and, unfortunately, some accidents have been fatal. Indeed, Gov.uk reported 3 deaths, 199 serious accidents and 530 other accidents reported from January 2020 to the end of June 2021 [3]. Overall, these sheer volume of accidents and relative driver inexperience has worked to dampen public opinion of e-mobility scooters. However, many governments around Europe have introduced numerous measures, such as mandatory helmet wearing, to ensure continued road safety.

Safety considerations aide, a report conducted by McKinsey & Company forecasts that by 2030, the e-scooter industry could be worth up to $300 billion in the United States, $150 billion in Europe and almost $50 billion in China [4]. These projections seem to suggest that ease of use and the decreasing attractiveness of internal combustion engines [5] will ensure that e-scooters, e-bikes, and all other forms of micro mobility, will become ubiquitous in our urban centres. However, whilst the first-generation industry actors have undoubtedly demonstrated their capacity to bring innovative new products, services, and business models to market, much must still be done to ensure that the sector becomes more inclusive to disabled users, and that e-scooters do not become a burden on pedestrians or other road users.  

With the above considered, our in-house inventor, Rob Chicken, has shared his thoughts on how to make e-mobility more inclusive and better integrated within cities

In scooter design above, there are two front wheels for stability. This can be steered by tilting the handles left or right, allowing the rider to lean into the bend when going around a corner. It can also be folded up for convenient storage.

Conversely, this four-wheel design (left) is primarily intended for disabled riders. Indeed, a higher riding position allows for easier communication with someone who is able-bodied. Moreover, the design provides a more ergonomic method of transport because the rider simply moves the handles back and forth, eliminating the need for pushing or pulling and thereby increasing the rider’s overall mobility and self-sufficiency. 

In the above tricycle design, the batteries are stowed in the box at the back, which can be removed. The short length of this vehicle will allow the scooter to be stowed in the back of a car for long journeys.

Indeed, the seated design makes this micro-mobility option more attractive to users commuting a long distance or where a car would not be appropriate. Moreover, the design takes the strain out of standing and can also be fitted with a roof, making it more resilient to harsh weather conditions compared to more conventional e-mobility vehicles.

Turning to urban planning, if cities are to encourage, or simply prepare for, wide-spread adoption of micro-mobility, a clear and coherent e-scooter parking policy is needed. A study undertaken by Dott in Paris found that riders completing their journeys in allocated spots jumped from 35% to 97% once parking became more regulated and clear to the end-user [6]. Moreover, from a attractiveness perspective, clear parking areas greatly impact the consumer’s perceived convenience of micro-mobility, with a poll finding that 90% of riders would talk two minutes to pick up a scooter, but 46% of wouldn’t walk a minute more [6].

Consequently, the e-scooter parking concepts below could benefit overall ridership, public acceptance, and user-accessibility.

Pictured above is what a typical cycle locker looks like on the inside and outside. Key features include shelter from harsh weather and secure storage for the riders’ bags, and shopping etc.

When used, bicycle lockers are typically lined up in a row and do not usually obstruct pedestrian pathways. However, the limited scalability these lockers, or regular bicycle or e-scooter racks, for that matter, can become problematic in dense environments.

To overcome the scalability problem inherent to current designs, a large conveyor, rotator, or revolver system may be the solution. As depicted in the examples above, the conveyor locker can store 18 bikes or e-mobility scooters. Moreover, unlike open-air bike racks, the vehicles are safely kept hidden from adverse weather and, for the most part, hidden from sight. The closed design may also make it easier for owners and operators to monetise and measure use.

What do you think of these concepts? Do they successfully answer the needs of disabled e-mobility users and urban planners? Do you have an alternative solution? Let us know by writing to us at hello@ibexpub.media

This article is part of a mini-series called Rob’s Corner where avid inventor Robert Chicken presents an array of innovative green mobility transport concepts. Introduction and commentary by Kloudia Sakowski

References:
[1] “European Shared Mobility Index,” Fluctuo Mobility Intelligence, pp. 1–16, Oct. 2021 [Online]. Available: https://mcusercontent.com/baa57cfb15e41471e5dd992db/files/60f5d957-7a46-bc8e-2ed7-48f3cb5de370/Fluctuo_European_Index_Q3_2021_10_.pdf
[2] S. Srivastava, “E-Scooter Trends and Statistics Displaying a Prosperous Future,” Appinventiv, 21-Jul-2021. [Online]. Available: https://appinventiv.com/blog/escooter-trends-and-statistics/
[3] Department for Transport, “Reported road casualties Great Britain: e-Scooter factsheet year ending June 2021,” GOV.UK, 25-Nov-2021. [Online]. Available: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/reported-road-casualties-great-britain-e-scooter-factsheet-year-ending-june-2021/reported-road-casualties-great-britain-e-scooter-factsheet-year-ending-june-2021.
[4] R. Tetzeli, Ed., “The irresistible momentum behind clean, electric, connected mobility: Four key trends,” www.mckinsey.com, 06-Apr-2021. [Online]. Available: https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/automotive-and-assembly/our-insights/the-irresistible-momentum-behind-clean-electric-connected-mobility-four-key-trend
[5] McKinsey & Company, “Why the automotive future is electric,” www.mckinsey.com, 07-Sep-2021. [Online]. Available: https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/automotive-and-assembly/our-insights/why-the-automotive-future-is-electric
[6] ZAG, “This research paper on London e-scooter parking is a must-read treasure trove,” Zag Daily, 16-Nov-2020. [Online]. Available: https://zagdaily.com/trends/this-research-paper-on-london-e-scooter-parking-is-a-must-read-treasure-trove/
Images: 
Henry Söderlund (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Electric_Tier_kick_scooters_in_Helsinki,_Finland,_2021.jpg), „Electric Tier kick scooters in Helsinki, Finland, 2021“, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode
 
Andrew Henkelman (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:NYC-eScooter-2021-Accident.png), https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/legalcode

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