A report finds that micromobility grew quickly from 2018 to 2019, though it remains concentrated in relatively few cities. Local governments have also found ways to curb problems such as improper parking and inequity.
The number of people using new micromobility options in U.S. cities — especially electric-powered scooters — rose dramatically last year, according to the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO).
But there’s a big asterisk on that finding: Scooter companies pulled out of some of the cities responsible for that expansion toward the end of 2019. And then in 2020 came the pandemic, and with it a mass reduction in people walking through their front doors.
Overall, the number of trips taken on micromobility options increased from 84 million in 2018 to 136 million in 2019, NACTO found. That includes scooters and e-bikes, both docked and dockless. The report only covered locations with more than 150 vehicles, and excluded closed campus systems such as universities.
For both bikes and scooters, the trips were heavily concentrated in a few cities. Since micromobility companies began deploying them, they’ve run into local concerns about improper parking and unsafe riding, which led to regulations and in some cases bans. In some cities — notably New York, whose Citi Bike program made up about half of all station-based e-bike trips in 2019 — the programs were accepted and became very popular.
About 38 percent of all scooter trips took place in six cities: Atlanta, Dallas, Los Angeles, San Diego, Washington, D.C., and Austin, Texas.
The report noted that some cities have found creative and effective solutions for problems such as improper parking. In San Francisco, a requirement that all scooters have the ability to be locked to street furniture was followed by an 83 percent decline in complaints and citations.
It also noted potential solutions for another concern about these emerging transportation options: Inequity. In Chicago, the Divvy for Everyone (D4E) program offered $5 annual memberships and a cash payment option. In 2015, 79 percent of D4E annual pass members were white, but by 2018, only 28 percent of D4E users were white.
While the number of micromobility trips did grow significantly from 2018 to 2019, it should be noted that the total number of trips, 136 million, is a drop in the bucket relative to the entire transportation picture. The Bureau of Transportation Statistics estimates that the entire population takes 411 billion trips per year.
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