Scooters and other micromobility vehicles may be the future of urban transit, argues a new article in TheCityFix. The Covid-19 pandemic’s effects on mobility patterns are likely to increase the speed with which urban dwellers adopt new transportation modes, like scooters, e-bikes, mopeds, and traditional bicycles. Studies show that some cities have seen as much as 90% declines in public transit use, with people shifting to micromobility vehicles. This trend raises important questions, especially when it comes to safety issues.
Most cities do not have the necessary infrastructure to keep micromobility users safe, according to TheCityFix: due to the dominance of urban development that favors car riders, absent are structures like bicycle lanes separated from traffic, or “connected corridors where people can safely ride and scoot over long distances.” In the absence of such structures, the use of micromobility vehicles can put riders at risk of injury and death.
In order to protect micromobility riders, cities will need to drastically rethink their urban design, and seek public and private initiatives “to foster safe services and support safe, inclusive infrastructure,” the article argues. Cities in the US can follow the lead of many Asian cities that have put public regulators in charge of developing safe infrastructure, like Beijing, which “Beijing incorporates both government and corporate responsibilities into shared mobility regulations, including shared development of infrastructure, allocation of public resources, and addressing residents’ mobility needs.” In that city, district authorities have placed bicycle and parking infrastructure in high-use public areas like hospitals and transit centers; meanwhile, city authorities are responsible for developing policies to shepherd construction and financing by private entities. Other Chinese cities, like Shenzhen and Tianjin, have taken similar approaches, vesting the responsibility to build out their transit systems in public authorities.
As TheCityFix notes, US cities also have plenty of examples to follow when it comes to paying for micromobility infrastructure. In Rio de Janeiro, municipal authorities raise money from “scooter permit fees, advertising and fines” to fund infrastructure development and improvement. Meanwhile in Gudalajara, Mexico, micromobility companies pay a fee to operate in various part of the city, which uses these funds to create dedicated bicycle infrastructure. TheCityFix also notes the program in Calgary, Canada, wherein micromobility companies by a fee of $10 per vehicle, which is used to build and upkeep parking structures and areas.