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Explosive Growth Expected Across the Micromobility Sector

The micromobility transportation sector continues to evolve and grow, fueled by developments in technology, partnerships and infrastructure, according to experts at the 2023 Micromobility World Conference.

A row of e-bikes parked on a sidewalk.
As micromobility continues to evolve, new makers, operators and technology is moving into the realm. Experts watching the space predict that privately owned bikes and scooters will see explosive growth.

“Regardless of what value pool you’re in, regardless of what mode you’re in, this is a great story, in our mind, because micromobility is going to grow across the globe. It’s going to grow across form factors, across sharing and ownership,” said Kersten Heineke, a partner at McKinsey and Company and co-leader of the McKinsey Center for Future Mobility. Heineke was sharing global market research on the micromobility transportation sector at the Micromobility World Conference on Jan. 19.

The private ownership of micromobility is expected to double, with the growth of shared models increasing seven times by 2025, a trajectory Heineke describes as “massive,” adding that e-scooters will also see “sizable growth.” McKinsey expects the global e-bike market growth to climb from 5 percent to 15 percent per year, with the “bio” bike market shrinking.

“So we basically have a strong shift in the way user preferences are being put into the market,” he told the conference.

Watch for technology to enter the micromobility market as well as the electrified car market making the use of the vehicles “frictionless” with other mobility modes, said Kara Swisher, co-host of the podcast Pivot and the executive producer of the annual Code Conference.

“Frictionless-ness should be at the top of mind of all micromobility, of where you’re going, including the cars, all of them working together. It’s all transportation,” she added.

“I think there’s going to be a lot more partnership in this area, with innovative companies on the edge of different things … but it’s costly. You cannot do this without partnerships,” said Swisher, during a panel at the Micromobility World Conference.

Never far from the conversation around micromobility is the issue of infrastructure, which is generally the role government plays in the evolution of this new mobility ecosystem — and itself a form of partnership.

When it comes to which area cities should push first — infrastructure or the public policy to enable the devices — they have to happen nearly simultaneously, said Gabe Klein, who heads up the newly formed Joint Office of Energy and Transportation, at the Micromobility World Conference.

“When I launched Capital Bikeshare in D.C., one of the big criticisms I got was there aren’t enough bike lanes to make it safe,” said Klein, the former commissioner for both the Chicago and Washington, D.C., departments of transportation. “It is a chicken and egg problem. And if you look at D.C. now, and the infrastructure, and the percentage of people biking ... it’s through the roof. And I think it’s because we did both.”

“Ideally, you would do the bikes lanes first. But that’s not really how it works in America,” he added, pointing to cities like Chicago, San Francisco and the District of Columbia as good examples of cities that have done both simultaneously.

Similarly, micromobility operators need to work alongside cities, in part because they’re dependent on them.

“I told companies when they started these businesses, don’t just launch your stuff into the city and not talk to them,” Klein recalled. “Because ultimately, you’re going to need them and you’re going to need their funding, probably. ”

And despite work-from-anywhere trends, which have upended office commutes, micromobility will continue to have a place in the daily commute and other trips, experts warn.

“Seventy percent of global consumers say they would use micromobility for their daily commute — a great sign. This is growing,” said Heineke from McKinsey. “The preference toward micromobility is increasing, and has increased even more last year versus the other years.”

“Cities are investing into anything that is emission free; anything that reduces traffic volume; anything that allows people to pick a mode of transport that isn’t a personal vehicle,” he added.
Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Yreka, Calif.