The COVID-19 pandemic uncovered many societal cracks – from healthcare, to affordable housing, to accessing essential needs like groceries. During this crisis, we saw how few options many residents have to move around in their cities. However, active transport like walking and cycling gave people new power in their mobility. Over the past year, all over the world, resilient transportation options like walking and cycling have been embraced and celebrated for the freedom they offer.
Supporting these increases in walking and cycling, micromobility — which includes small, electric- or human-powered devices that typically operate below 25 km/h and are ideal for short trips — also served essential trips. During the early months of the pandemic, some cities provided free bikeshare access to frontline health and other essential workers, others added bikeshare stations at hospitals, and some even provided healthcare workers with e-bikes to enable direct, distanced access to work. Shared micromobility also gave people an alternative to crowded buses or long walks, and continued to complement sustainable transportation modes, particularly as first-last mile connections.
In 2020, cities responded quickly to demands for more safe, connected infrastructure that supports cycling and shared micromobility like temporary lanes and slow streets, as well as policies that expand access to bicycles like rebates for purchasing a bicycle and free or reduced bikeshare. These efforts also lay the foundation for improved integration between micromobility and larger public transportation networks.
As some cities around the world continue to experience lockdowns, the need for flexible and reliable transportation options is obvious and urgent. As cities reopen or plan to reopen, there is tremendous opportunity to rethink existing mobility systems. One new opportunity is intentionally and significantly integrating shared micromobility modes into transport systems. Doing so will help cities ensure that people do not return to the status quo of driving, and instead rely on safer, more resilient, and sustainable mobility for their transportation needs.
In many cities, the transportation tools—public transportation, walking, cycling and micromobility— are in place, but they may not be connected in ways that maximize the potential of the entire transport network.
Multimodal trips are ones where people use multiple modes of travel to reach their destination. Multimodal integration makes these trips easier and more affordable for people because infrastructure and payment across different transport modes is more seamlessly connected.
Since the explosion of privately-operated shared bicycles and e-scooters on city streets in 2018, many cities have approached shared micromobility offerings with concern, designing and implementing strict regulations to counter negative impacts like oversupply and unsafe riding. As cities learned from each other, best practice recommendations for shared micromobility regulation emerged. However, in most cases, regulation of shared bicycles and e-scooters alone does not enable cities to use these modes to their full potential to fill transport network gaps. While regulation is an important tool to manage operations, integrating shared micromobility presents a real opportunity to expand access and offer people quick and affordable mobility options.
ITDP’s new report, Maximizing Micromobility: Unlocking Opportunities to Integrate Micromobility and Public Transportation explores how cities have approached multimodal integration in the past, and what lessons can be applied to integrating micromobility with public transport. Integration improves reliability, affordability, and flexibility of multimodal trips; increases ridership across modes; and expands the population within an accessible distance to transport stations. Physical integration, in particular, expands access. The maps below show a significantly higher percentage of the population is within a 15-minute cycle (or other micromobility) trip using cycle lanes compared to a 15-minute walk of a public transit station in Jakarta, Indonesia, Mexico City, Mexico, and Fortaleza, Brazil.
The report also presents five key takeaways for cities to maximize micromobility, and take advantage of this unique moment of transition and opportunity. Cities should:
- Lead the integration process, as opposed to waiting for operators to do so, and develop strong working relationships with private operators committed to integrating services,
- Shift their focus from solely regulating micromobility to thinking about how micromobility can strengthen the transport network by filling in gaps and adding options,
- Clearly link integration to expanding access to destinations and services
- Start with physical integration, like linking cycle lanes to transit stations and installing secure micromobility parking at stations, and
- Use shifts in travel demand, like those experienced in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, to pilot integrative services.
One easy first step is to make temporary cycle lanes, those built during the pandemic and many of which lead to transit hubs, permanent.
Given the urgency that cities have felt to ramp up low- and zero-carbon mobility options, such as micromobility, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, now is a unique chance for cities to more explicitly integrate micromobility with other transport modes. Integrating micromobility with public transport can help people access destinations in less time and at a lower cost than when these modes are disconnected. By ensuring that micromobility and public transportation are the fastest most cost-effective option for most trips, integration can lead to improved urban resilience, better air quality, fewer greenhouse gas emissions, and more livable cities.
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