Micro-Mobility: Hero or villain?
Why don’t bus operators just dominate micro-mobility?

The rise of micro-mobility companies has been happened over the last few years with several companies providing bikes and scooters consumers with convenient options for last-mile transportation. In 2019, this micro-mobility trend will re-energized with the emergence of the shared and dockless e-scooter for short.  So... why don’t bus operators just dominate micro-mobility?

E-scooters quickly found such strong product-market fit that the two new e-scooter US companies became the fastest ever US companies to reach billion dollar valuations, with each achieving this milestone within a year of inception.

The trend of e-scooter companies quickly scaling into large companies has continued into 2019 with news announcing a merger to form the strongest micro-mobility competitor in LatAm less than a year after they were founded. Moreover, additional e-scooter companies from all over the world recently announced large capital raises. In Europe alone, five e-scooter companies have emerged and raised over $150 million of capital since the start of 2018.  All European based e-scooter startups who have recently raised more than $150 million over the last several months alone. Part of the reason they have been able to raise such large amounts of capital is due the market research.  People wants last-mile solutions.

However, negative headlines in newspapers and TV News about e-scooters ending up in lakes and oceans, congesting sidewalks, being stolen, causing injuries, and experiencing intense competition have tempered the narrative and suggest e-scooters are not the best micro-mobility option after all.  There is no “scootergeddon” and the sales are encreasing and the bikes shares models are also getting good results.  The people are using multimodal transports modes, and want to combine bus + micro mobility for daily use.

Now plenty of questions remain about the viability of e-scooters as a long-term micro-mobility solution.

Do cities need electric scooters?

Well, yes and no... 

It depends which city you ask.  However, what most cities agree with is that e-scooters, electric bikes, and pedal bikes, whether docked or dockless, are viable solutions to help alleviate traffic congestion, especially at rush hours, and they are excited about that.

The main concerns with micro-mobility vehicles, and e-scooters in particular, are safety and whether cities current infrastructure can support the massive influx of these vehicles.

Common questions include “how do we keep the e-scooters from being parked where we don’t want them?” and ”how do we modify our bike lanes to keep e-scooter riders and bike riders safe while also keeping enough sidewalk space for pedestrians?”   The answer is simple.  Same as Bikes...

Most of the large micro-mobility companies have been working with cities to address these concerns including using electronic geo-zones to prevent riders from either riding in an unsafe area or parking in an area where the city doesn’t want them to park, and e-scooter companies require riders to be 18 years or older and with a valid driver's license scanned before you can open an account.  

It will take time and a track record of safety and compliance, which is not guaranteed, for most cities to believe micro-mobility companies do better good than harm, but through data, cooperation, and intelligent regulation, the chances that cities become more open to these solutions should increase.

But are they safe?

Yes.  They are. 

Accident rates will likely decline as riders become more familiar with e-scooters, especially when considering they have only been on the streets for a year.   Reports also say most are due to rider neglect such as multi-riders on one e-scooter or riders using their phone while riding. To combat this, e-scooter companies must have safety videos on their website and there is also a safety tutorial when riders first sign up for each app and safety instructions clearly labeled on the e-scooters themselves.  Also the laws and traffic regulation will help or must help to promote all micro-mobility solutions.

So why don’t bus operators just dominate micro-mobility?

They’re certainly not trying to dominate and are not leading or show intent to be the great operators of this mobility solution.  And this is a sad news..

Some pilots has already launched their own e-scooters across several EU cities. However remains an opportunity for the larger independent micro-mobility companies to leverage their operating experience into an advantage against the rideshare competitors as municipal transportation authorities will likely emphasize certain characteristics in the micro-mobility partners they choose to work with. These include:

  • Recognized by users as a dependable last-mile transport alternative and with operations in many cities across geographies.
  • Unique experience operating complex e-scooter or dockless bike networks where they are learning how to increase safety and efficiency in real time
  • Pre-existing relationships with other regulatory authorities who can validate their ability to operate successfully and safely in cities across the world.

Nonetheless, even if the large independent micro-mobility companies possess these characteristics, there is certainly a strong argument that the endgame for all the independent micro-mobility players is to combine and / or partner with rideshare companies or risk losing significant market share. The idea of a consumer being able to open their bus app and share ride times and cost against an other model of transportation is a very powerful idea.

In conclusion, no matter what side of the micro-mobility and e-scooter argument you fall on, the data indicates society needs a viable last-mile alternative to the current transportation options that are congesting and polluting the world’s most populous cities. Time will tell if the best last-mile alternative ends up being e-scooters, dockless bikes, or some new form of transportation yet to hit the streets.

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