A Love/Hate Relationship - why Micromobility is the imperfect solution to cities’ transportation problem

Cities have a transportation problem: microbility solve them but creates new ones. What cities and micromobility operators can do, in order to solve that?

By Delphine Glick Intern at Navmatic and Boaz Mamo, Co-founder and CEO at Navmatic

Photo by Mika Baumeister
Photo by Mika Baumeister

Cities are more congested and polluted than ever. Good luck getting from JFK airport to the financial district in under 2 hours on a Friday. Transportation concerns in major cities are being compounded by the pandemic, with residents now more concerned than ever about riding public transportation or hopping into an Uber or Lyft.

City officials and regulatory agencies use many different approaches and techniques to solve transportation challenges. Building better, more accessible equitable, and affordable public transportation remains the catch-all solution. However, such initiatives are expensive and take a significant amount of time.

Cities — now more than ever — will need to rely on new solutions to solve these new transportation challenges.

Solving for transportation needs through shared micromobility — a concept involving lightweight and convenient e-scooters and bikes — presents a more viable solution. Even before the COVID-19 crisis, the advantages posed by micromobility were numerous and significant; now, they are even more pressing and stand to make an even larger impact. However, lack of local government support hindered their adoption.

Simply put, micromobility solutions move people in a cleaner, more efficient way within cities.

Leveraging micromobility solutions will help create public value for both cities and its residents in a few ways:

  • Studies have shown that micomobility options may be safer than riding in a car (for both the driver, passenger, and other folks on the road).
  • Relative to vehicles (cars, buses, etc.), micromobility options submit nearly zero emissions and dramatically reduce street noise.
  • Micromobility options represent a better long-term, socially-distanced solution to first and last mile transportation as a complement — not replacement for — public transportation.

The importance of micromobility to cities has been compounded by the pandemic. And, we’ve already seen the effect that public health crises can have on reshaping the micromobility landscape.

A significant boom in bike-sharing programs occurred after China’s 2005 SARS outbreak with bike-sharing programs. Moreover, during Paris’ late 2019 transit strikes, riders turned to micromobility, and its ridership increased 300% year over year. These after effects of COVID are already easy to see — Citibike ridership increased by 67% in New York and Chicago this March, compared to March 2019.

All this sounds great, and microbility seems like a viable solution, so why haven’t we seen greater adoption?

  • First, without supporting infrastructure, rider and pedestrian safety continue to cause concern. Cities lack the incentive to build this infrastructure without demonstrated and sustained interest in micromobility from the public. Additionally, building bike lanes and physical dividers form vehicle traffic takes time and lots of money (assuming political support is a given, which it is not).
  • Second, scooter availability presents an intriguing paradigm: they are not always located where people need them (public transportation hubs), yet they are in locations where they are not needed (laid over on the middle of the sidewalk or blocking bus stops and entrances). Dockless scooters and bikes get parked anywhere and everywhere, causing safety problems for pedestrians and vehicles.

These main issues have one common theme — location, location, location.

Location is everything, and current geolocation technology simply is not strong enough to truly understand the location of a scooter at the most granular level.

Adequate geofencing technology would be able to tackle these obstacles one by one.

  • Safety would be improved by better enforcing the safe zones and no-drive zones.
  • Parking in unauthorized areas could be enforced without any delay.

That’s why at Navmatic, we have invested our time and effort into creating solutions that can provide advanced location tracking that can eliminate these issues. The right investment for city governments and micromobility companies alike to make now is into such technology.

Look for more to come as we share more about our journey to solve this challenge and create more public value for cities and their residents!

GPS, lacks both accuracy and reliability especially in an urban environment. Navmatic’s solution provides a sub-meter level of position accuracy.