Micromobility: Top 10 Cities To Watch In 2021

by Victoria Villain, on December 21, 2020


Scooter and bike sharing schemes (micromobility) have become commonplace in many cities around the world, but the current health crisis and climate emergency have accelerated in their adoption, mainly in Europe, but also in Asia and the United States.

So which cities would benefit most from micromobility?

Although each city has its own specific characteristics and needs, there seems to be a number of criteria that determine the adoption and long-term success of shared micromobility services.

First of all, these cities are facing the challenge of reducing carbon emissions. They suffer from high levels of air pollution and heavy traffic, and want to discourage the use of private cars. Since the population density in these cities is typically quite high, they are looking for sustainable solutions to improve traffic flow.

To achieve this, they have introduced shared mobility services as a way to reduce traffic in the city centre and improve transport services for the surrounding communities. These shared mobility services are provided in addition to existing public transport services. So cities with a high percentage of short daily car journeys (from 1 to 5 km) have great potential in terms of micromobility, which can effectively replace these journeys.

Another intended benefit is that it saves space. On average, a car takes up 12.5 m2 of road space, while 15 electric bicycles and their charging stations take up the same amount of space. Micromobility solutions provide more people with access to transport using the same available space.

And lastly, cities with mild temperatures and moderate weather fluctuations have the advantage of being able to guarantee use of micromobility services all year round.

But not all populations respond in the same way to weather conditions. Despite the fact that it rains a lot in Amsterdam, the Dutch are not afraid to use their bikes as a matter of routine. However, this is less common in the Greater Paris area for example (below in the graph, in the city of Saclay), where people are more sensitive to bad weather.

Demand for bikes depending on weather conditions
source: Zoov data

Today, cities seeking to tackle these issues have made micromobility a high priority, and are looking to establish long-term relationships with the operators involved. Authorities want to make these modes of transport an integral part of city life and are calling for more investment to improve access to city centres without eating into public spaces.

Cities where micromobility has strong growth potential

Micromobility has suffered for a while in terms of its image. The main problem is the lack of legislative and regulatory frameworks, but it doesn’t end there. After several setbacks, and with an increasing number of operators in certain cities, the market is now becoming more structured and better established. Here are 10 cities that we believe are the most suitable for micromobility.

Micromobility in Paris

Paris, the 29th most densely populated city in the world, is going through some major changes.

With 38 million tourists in 2019, a high level of air pollution and very dense traffic, the capital has decided to shift towards more eco-friendly means of transport.

Footpaths and cycle lanes are springing up all over the capital, slowly occupying spaces that were once used only by cars. Home to a real transport experiment, the “15-minute city” (ville du quart d’heure) is becoming a model of micromobility and is constantly developing more eco-friendly initiatives and solutions.

The aim is to ensure that micromobility services can operate as efficiently as possible alongside public transport and local residents. Today, more than 60% of Parisians do not own a car and the city-subsidised Vélib’ bike and electric bike service has more than 225,000 registered users. An example to be followed!

Anne Hidalgo’s 15-minute city

(...) It’s a city where you can find everything you need no more than 15 minutes from your doorstep. It is a way of making the city more environmentally friendly, while improving the daily lives of Parisians”

Dividing Paris into local neighbourhoods:

Anne Hidalgo tweeting about the “15-minute city”

But Paris is much more than just its city centre.

The Paris region has 10 million inhabitants, many of whom are often driving a long way to get to work. So the idea is to develop micromobility services around the capital in order to better serve the surrounding areas, as well as to relieve traffic in suburban areas through the use of public transport. The aim is to reduce the number of parking spaces by 50% and to increase the number of green spaces by 2026.

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Micromobility in Barcelona

Barcelona introduced a new mobility plan back in 2013. Spain’s second largest city also faces a serious public health issue caused by poor air quality and constantly high noise levels.

The City Council has therefore decided to give more space to pedestrians by creating areas known as “Superilles” (super islands in Catalan) where eco-friendly transport is given priority and where the maximum authorised speed limit is 10 km/hr.

The aim is to create 503 super islands, which would reduce nitrogen dioxide levels by 24%, i.e. to 36 mg per cubic metre. Today, nitrogen dioxide levels are at 47 mg per cubic metre, while the WHO recommends that this level should not exceed 40 mg. What’s more, it has been shown that with a 13% reduction in traffic, Barcelona could regain up to 70% of its public space.

Poblenou Barcelona's super islands
Poblenou, the city’s central district, was the first testing ground for these super islands.

Micromobility in Manchester

Manchester launched a call for tenders at the beginning of 2020 with a view to selecting an operator to manage a fleet of 1,500 shared bikes and electric bikes. And since last October, 4 operators are still in the running for this special operating licence.

“The need for an affordable, convenient and sustainable bike hire scheme in our city-region has never been more timely.

– Andy Burnham, Mayor of Manchester

By spring 2021, the service will become “a viable travel option for more than 100,000 households who will live within a five-minute walk of a docking station,” according to Chris Boardman, a former professional cyclist and Greater Manchester’s first cycling and walking commissioner.

The city’s bike-sharing scheme will enable people to travel quickly from home to work, to do some local shopping or to get to public transport stations. Adding electric bikes to the offer will make the service an even more efficient, inclusive and attractive alternative to taking the car for short-distance urban journeys.

UK cities by micromobility potential

Micromobility in Milan

Milan lies in the heart of Italy’s thriving yet heavily polluted industrial region. The coronavirus pandemic has led to a decrease in pollution levels and has opened up new opportunities to combat this problem.

A mobility scheme called “Strade Aperte” (Open Streets) was launched in 2020; the aim is to maintain social distancing while ensuring continued economic activity. New facilities, particularly for cycling, have been put in place, and the city centre speed limit has been lowered to 35 km/hr. This makes the city safer for pedestrians and encourages the use of more eco-friendly means of transport.

Like Paris, Milan wants to reorganize its city centre into local neighbourhoods and ensure that everything is within 15 minutes’ walking distance.

Micromobility in Lisbon

Almost 50% of journeys in the Portuguese capital are still made by car, but the aim is to reduce this to 33% by 2030.

To achieve this, Lisbon has decided to turn to micromobility. The city’s uneven terrain is one of the main factors for the adoption of shared electric vehicles, which can easily enhance the public transport offer. Today, it has three car operators, a further three scooter operators and no fewer than nine self-service electric scooter operators for its 500,000 inhabitants (1 million if you include the outskirts).

But Pedro Machado, mobility adviser at Lisbon City Council, announced during a meeting that those involved in shared mobility should not be wrongly positioned as competitors.

It is in fact private vehicle drivers that are being targeted. In order to find common ground and achieve a common goal, he regularly brings the various operators together to discuss topics related to both mobility and local life. Pedro Machado adds that these services must also comply with a certain set of specifications that are specific to Lisbon.

Micromobility in Munich

With a population of 1.5 million (2.7 million including the outskirts), Munich is one of the three most densely populated cities in Germany. 60% of journeys of less than 5 km are made by car.

German cities by micromobility potential

In Munich, INRIX reports that the number of car journeys are abnormally high in the centre and north of the city. This is a real opportunity for the city to implement micromobility solutions in order to free up streets in the city centre and allow local residents to get around more easily, especially during rush hour.

Munich vehicle trips by census block

In November 2019, McKinsey published an estimate of the number of trips that would be made in 2030, based on data from the first 100 days of the scooter-share scheme. The results: 250 million journeys are expected to be made using self-service vehicles within the next 10 years, according to their predictive model.

250 million shared micromobility trips by 2030 - McKinsey & Company

Micromobility in Honolulu, Hawaii

Aloha micromobility! Located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, Honolulu is perhaps the most promising US city in terms of micromobility. Thanks to very favourable weather conditions, scooters and bikes are perfectly suited to replace private cars, which today represent 55% of journeys of under 5 km.

US cities by micromobility potential

It is also a strategic public health option.

Not only is Hawaii the poorest State, it also has the largest number of overweight adults, with 20.7% of adults identified as obese in 2007. Turning motorists into cyclists and pedestrians is therefore an effective way of getting people active again. Once again, the number of short car journeys leads us to believe that micromobility would benefit the most populated city in this group of islands.

Micromobility in Chicago

As the Chicago Department of Transportation’s Deputy Commissioner, Sean Wiedel, pointed out in an interview:

“Prior to this crisis, scooters were a complement to transit. Now, in many cases, they’re a way for people who don’t necessarily feel comfortable getting on transit yet via a bus or a train to get around."

The electric scooter has now become a mode of transport in its own right. The city has decided to launch the second phase of its initiative, increasing the number of self-service scooters from 2,500 to 10,000.

The City of Chicago runned a new e-scooter pilot in 2020
The City of Chicago runned a new e-scooter pilot in 2020

Micromobility in Singapore and other major cities in South East Asia

Although the level of air pollution in Singapore is not as catastrophic as its neighbouring cities (such as Bangkok, Hanoi, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, and so on), the streets are often overcrowded and people are too quick to use their cars for their daily commute.

Better living standards for the people of the region have led to a significant increase in the purchase of motor vehicles over the last few years. As a result, 750 new driving licences are issued every day and 200,000 new vehicles circulate each year in the city of Ho Chi Minh.

And while drivers spend an average of 20 to 30 minutes a day in traffic jams in Singapore, it’s more than 60 minutes for those in Manila and Jakarta. And electric scooters could provide the solution to this problem.

These space-saving and affordable vehicles are proving to be a good alternative to cars and personal scooters in these large South Asian cities. They make getting around a breeze! What’s more, these rechargeable vehicles seem to be 100 times faster than a conventional car.

Another well-known fact is that they can cover a distance of 133 km with the same amount of energy as it would take for an electric car to cover 6.6 km, or 1.3 km for a diesel car. This will save both space and energy, something these cities urgently need.

How e-scooters could replace gas and electric vehicles in Singapore
How e-scooters could replace gas and electric vehicles in Singapore

Micromobility in Helsinki

Helsinki wants to achieve carbon neutrality by 2035 and become the most functional city in the world.

However, the objectives of providing more bike-sharing services and creating new cycle paths have yet to achieve the desired levels. While 131 new kilometres of cycle lanes were planned back in 2016, only 72 have actually been created, and bike-sharing mobility — following a 2-point increase between 2010 and 2013 — eventually fell back down to 9% of all journeys in 2019.

Bicycle traffic in Helsinki
Bicycle traffic in Helsinki

But Helsinki hasn’t given up.

It has learnt from its shortcomings (lack of staff, lack of publicity and lack of funding) and intends to achieve its new objective by 2025: to increase bike-share mobility to 20%! 27 million euros has been made available in order to complete the cycle paths and make its cycling strategy a real success.

The strategy has five sub-targets: to provide direct and well-thought-out cycle routes, to maintain existing roads, to provide a clear set of specifications, to provide parking and servicing facilities, and to ensure effective communication.

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