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How Are Micromobility Companies Responding to COVID-19?

The global outbreak of the novel coronavirus has disrupted many aspects of daily life. In the transportation sector, on-demand options are being shuffled to meet travel needs at a time when other services are scaling back.

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While some shared mobility providers are pulling back service in certain markets to respond to the novel coronavirus crisis, others are expanding.

Revel, operator of shared electric moped-like devices, has pulled its service from Miami and reduced service in Oakland, Calif. At the same time, the company has expanded service in Brooklyn and Queens in New York City to accommodate workers needing transportation to major health centers.

Other micromobility operators like Uber-owned JUMP bikes and scooters have suspended service in a number of markets like Sacramento, Calif. Scooters have also been pulled from the streets of San Francisco and other cities.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom took the far-reaching step last week of calling on the state’s nearly 40 million residents to stay at home in California’s efforts to mitigate the spread of the virus. The state has 1,849 confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to The New York Times.

"We are deferring to operator discretion as to whether they can continue to operate and minimize the risk of transmission of the virus," said Erica Kato, a spokesperson for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. 

"Shared-rideable operators can continue to operate because they fall under transportation, an essential service," said Grace Nunez, a spokesperson for the city of Sacramento. "Earlier this week, the city was notified that both Bird and JUMP have pulled their shared-rideable bikes and scooters from operation for the time being. Spin is currently maintaining their fleet."

Revel will reduce its Oakland fleet from 1,000 units to 300 due largely to the Bay Area’s shelter in place directive. In Miami, located in Miami-Dade County, Fla., where at least 112 coronavirus cases have been reported at the time of writing, Revel has suspended service following an order from the city.

The rent-to-ride electric moped-like devices, available with an app, are being made available for free for health-care workers in New York, Oakland, Washington, D.C., and Austin, Texas.   

“Everyone who can stay home, should stay home. But, health care providers are desperately needed at work, and we are here to support them,” said Frank Reig, CEO and co-founder of Revel, in a statement. “By providing free rides to health care workers, we hope this helps them to travel alone, keep a safe distance from others, and get where they are needed most.”

GIG, the car-sharing service in the Bay Area and Sacramento, will continue to operate. The company stresses it has taken "enhanced safety measures,” with more frequent cleaning, particularly of high-touch areas.

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.