Energy - Environment - Mobility

Micro-mobility solutions: how could they fit in tomorrow’s city?

Published on 11 January 2023 Read 25 min

Scooters, bikes, kick scooters, skateboards, rollerblade… micro-vehicles are now everywhere within public space. Today, while our perception of the city is changing and where the “15-minutes city” concept is a proposal to improve our daily life quality, what could be the place and the potential for micro-mobility? Alcimed deciphers the stakes and the diffusion of this new micromobility solutions.

Sustainable mobility: a very wide diversity of practices in the heart of the city

The OECD definition of micro-mobility is the following: the use of any vehicle of less than 350 kg with a maximum speed of 45 km/h. This definition regroups a wide range of vehicles; new or not; motorized or not; electric or combustion powered. To illustrate this variety, we can think of the following solutions: rollerblades, skateboards, monowheels, hoverboards, electric kick scooters, cargo bikes, walking bikes, speed bikes, 50CC scooters…

This large panel of sustainable micro-mobility solutions implies a wide diversity of usages. Among these solutions, only non-motorized personal transporters, i.e. kick scooters, rollerblades or non-motorized skateboards, are allowed to ride on the pavement at walking pace. The motorized personal transporters must ride on the road or on cycle lanes and, unless local authorization, they are not allowed outside urban areas. On the other side of the micro-mobility solutions range, 50CC scooters must not ride on cycle or bus lanes. Finally, while new bikes models such as cargo bikes are increasing to ease multiple persons transport, the motorized personal transporters are strictly reserved for an individual usage, subject to penalties otherwise.

Over the last 20 years in France, riding bicycles has increased by 60% in big cities while it has decreased by 45% in the countryside.

Micro-mobility trend is transforming last mile delivery both for goods and passenger transportation. Regarding passenger transportation, the massive spread of micro-mobility solutions has come along with an increase of shared mobility, especially thanks to the multiplication of platforms providing free-floating engines or relying on docking stations. Regarding goods transportation, companies have been rethinking their delivery strategies thanks to this wide range of motorized engines. Then, Stuart, European on-demand delivery leader, is working for a high number of professionals, from food companies to retail passing through e-commerce.

Despite this increasing trend, micro-mobility solutions are mainly used within urban areas by men and white collars. Over the last 20 years in France, riding bicycles has increased by 60% in big cities while it has decreased by 45% in the countryside. Even if more and more women are riding their bicycles mainly due to the increasing number of usages, they still only represent 35% of the total cyclist population. Another shift can be found in the increasing number of white collars using micro mobility solutions while elderly people and blue collars are giving up on these solutions. To go further, more than 2/3 of the motorized personal transporters users are commuting workers or young city-dwellers.

Micro-mobility: a perfect fit with urban development strategies

The increasing number of « Low Emission Zones”, especially in Europe, is shaking up our mobility habits and strengthen the micro-mobility solutions attractiveness.

As said earlier, micro-mobility is growing fast. Indeed, more than 4.5 million personal transporters were sold in France in 2020, among them more than 500,000 electric bikes and almost 650,000 electric kick scooters. This growth is supported by several major trends such as the electrification and digitalization of our transport modes. While the number of sold bikes in France has been steady for the last decades (around 3 million new bikes sold each year), the number of electric bikes has kept growing from 5% of the sales in 2016 to almost 20% in 2020. The electrification of the personal transporters solutions has changed their image since they are no longer considered as toys but as credible transport means.

Metropolis’ strategy is to develop proximity and micro-mobility is a part of the answer. This new mobility plan adopted by City Councils are inspired by the “15-minutes city” concept developed by Carlos Moreno. This concept is a promise for city-dwellers to be able to find essential functions within 15 minutes ride or walk from their home. The spread of micro-mobility will ease the development of this concept and vice versa. Rethinking urban areas and especially road lanes to develop an ultra-local urban mobility means transformations such as extending pavements, decreasing the number of parking slots, increasing the number of cycle lanes… Some companies such as Fifteen – owner of the free-floating Velib’ service in Paris, revendicate as a symbol this new urban mobility.

Finally, the increasing number of « Low Emission Zones”, especially in Europe, is shaking up our mobility habits and strengthen the micro-mobility solutions attractiveness. Indeed, these ones are zero-emission solutions and represent real alternatives to combustion-powered cars for personal usages through multi-modality or for goods transportation, illustrated by the growth of cyclo-logistics activities.

Discover our experience in the field of new mobility and sustainable mobility >

Finding the right lane for micro-mobility

The first step of this development is to clarify the regulation. Indeed, the current regulation is emerging, moving and incomplete. In France, the Highway Code has taken the motorized personal transporters into account only in 2019 with the LOM law. For example, an empty space has been filled in January 2022 with a specific regulation for “light moped”, motorized personal transporters which look like bicycles without pedals. Nevertheless, in 2020, 31,000 of these engines were sold without any existing legal framework. Countless debates are arising such as: why considering non speed limited vehicles as scooters? How to limit accidents and what should be the mandatory equipment for riders? What type of insurance should they subscribe?

The second step for the development of micro-mobility is the emergence of key players. There are still a lot of discrepancies between bicycle, personal transporter, and motorbike markets. Very few OEMs are manufacturing these 3 types of vehicles, despite the growing number of newcomers on the market. Neither newcomers manufacturing electric scooters such as Red Electric or NIU nor the ones manufacturing personal transporter solutions such as Xiaomi or Airwheel nor even the ones manufacturing electric bikes such as Cowboy or Van Moof have decided to enter several market segments at once. These discrepancies are also visible on the Value Chain. Upstream, parts and accessories manufacturers are specialized. Downstream, the bikes or scooters retailers do not often propose electric kick scooters. Micro-mobility market is barely structuring. Free-floating platforms are now integrating new multi-segments offers with micro-mobility solutions proposed to their customers. Several shops are now claiming that they are “urban mobility specialists” or “e-Mobility specialists” and are proposing simultaneously kick scooters, bicycles and electric scooters.

The development and spread of countless micro-vehicles are supporting the transformation of both our cities and transportation habits. This new mobility is not just about selling electric kick scooters nor developing new bicycle lanes. Micro-mobility, as diverse as it may be, is now offering several innovations and raising many debates. How to deal with the batteries end-of-life? What is the role split between public and private actors? How to integrate these new solutions to our current transportation modes and habits? If you have any question regarding these new mobilities, our Energy-Environment and Mobility team is ready to get on-board with you!

About the author, 

Maxime, Sales Manager within the Energy-Environment-Mobility team of Alcimed in France

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