Micromobility – a new post-pandemic trend

    08 Jul 2021

    Half a thousand electric scooters were recently found at the bottom of the Rhine in Cologne, Germany.

    Their batteries contain cobalt, nickel, copper, and various acids. They can leak, and toxic substances will get into the water. This can offset the benefits of no emissions while driving these vehicles.

    However, the Mexican inventor Juanho Villegas found a way to make the frame of an electric scooter from recycled plastic. Together with the team, he has already built a full-fledged prototype with the concise name Plastic Ride.

    How he managed it – let’s read in the Natalia Miniaylo and Lev Ivanets articles from the “On mobility” blog.

    After the quarantine restrictions, the streets of the world’s cities were filled with light personal transport: bicycles, scooters, e-scooters, unicycles. They are an alternative to both cars and public transport, but unlike them, they do not pollute the environment.

    However, electric scooters and scooters are not perfect. On the one hand, they are environmentally friendly because they do not leave carbon dioxide emissions while driving. But on the other hand, they generate so much solid waste in the form of plastic that it can eliminate the lack of emissions while driving.

    Mexican designer Juanho Villegas has found a way to make the frame of an electric scooter from recycled plastic. Although there are elements in the design that cannot be recycled, the fact that the whole case is made in an environmentally friendly way makes it possible to significantly reduce CO2 emissions during production.

    Juanho and his team have already built a full-fledged prototype with the concise name Plastic Ride. The developer claims that the scooter can withstand up to 320 kilograms of load.

    This is much more than other standard models, which are usually limited to a lift of 100 kilograms. The scooter develops a speed of up to 20 km/h and has a range of 15 kilometers.

    It’s not too much, but it’s perfect for last-mile transportation. (We’ve explained the term “last mile”  used in logistics and e-commerce here). The 4400 mAh battery is fully charged in two hours, and the size of the Plastic Ride allows it to easily fit in the standard trunk of a car. Due to this, the scooter is convenient to use both in combination with a car and with public transport.

    Of course, Plastic Ride is not entirely environmentally friendly because it leaves the engine, battery, and other electronics that cannot be reused. But even ecological construction is already a big step towards environmental friendliness.

    Light personal transport is evolving and will never be limited to bicycles. Over the years, its variety and practicality will only increase.

    Different types of LPT have long been not a means of leisure and entertainment but perform a full-fledged transport function: citizens are actively using them for individual trips and to deal with the problem of the “last mile.” So now it’s up to the cities because it depends on each municipality how quickly the citizens will receive a well-planned infrastructure for the safe use of light personal transport.

    What are the practices of regulating micromobility in other countries

    Micromobility is a new type of (mainly) urban mobility, which involves using a number of light vehicles adapted to travel by one person.

    There is currently no single definition that would be internationally recognized. Some countries introduce a list of acceptable types of these tools, but more important for determining the means of electric micromobility are specific universal parameters, such as maximum speed, weight, power.

    Over the last year, there has been an increase in micromobility all over the world. Unicycles are capable of speeds up to 80 km per hour. Together with the lack of cycling infrastructure, all this has a significant impact on the pavement in some cities.

    However, the problem of regulating the means of micromobility is new to the world. European countries are just beginning to take the first steps in this regard.

    Kyiv activist Bohdan Lepiavko notes that the issues of micromobility regulation are new. Therefore, in many countries, legislative rules were introduced in 2018-2020. In several countries, legislation is still being developed, or specific transition periods are underway. This urgency is due to the rapid spread and availability of both the means of micromobility and companies that provide rental services.

    Lepyavko analyzed the practices of micromobility regulation for the EU4Climate Project, funded by the European Union (EU) and implemented by UNDP. He has prepared a White Paper on Micromobility in Ukraine, Iryna Bondarenko and Victoria Yashkina coordinated the project. They compare different practices for regulating the movement of micromobility vehicles in various countries around the world.

    The document considered information from 16 countries: EU countries (Sweden, Great Britain, Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany, Poland, Spain, Austria, Belgium, Estonia, France), Turkey, USA, Singapore, Colombia, New Zealand.

    The author of the study notes that the regulation of micromobility is influenced by the level of road safety and the level of economic development. In cranes with a high level of road safety (Sweden, Great Britain, Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany), the standards are implemented based on previous experience, based on national programs and concepts (for example, Vision Zero4). They already have developed arguments, as well as there are institutions dealing with similar issues, quality statistics collection systems that can be adjusted to take into account micromobility, relevant NGOs, and more.

    A high level of economic development means the availability of micromobility — consequently, the need for their regulation.

    Despite all the differences between countries, many of them are prohibited from using sidewalks to move, and the speed should not exceed 25-30 km per hour.

    The fourth part of the document contains specific recommendations for implementing changes at the national and local levels, based on the material from the first three parts. It is proposed to implement changes by developing new or amending existing regulations.

    First, micromobility needs to be defined at the national level. Possible generalized names of these types of transport can be personal transport, light personal t transport, micro-mobility vehicle, small electric vehicle (Germany), motorized personal vehicle (France), personal mobility vehicle (Spain), small vehicle (Austria), personal vehicle/vehicle (Poland, offer).

    Secondly, the regulation of micro-mobility movement is proposed to equate them in rights and responsibilities to bicycle users, thus creating obvious to all categories of road users rules and automatically providing for liability in case of violations already established by the Code of Administrative Offenses. This proposition coincides with the experience of EU countries.

    Third, activists recommend creating a connected and safe cycling infrastructure at the local level. This is happening in all the countries surveyed. It was the main wish of the business. The need for a coherent and convenient infrastructure was indicated in the survey by the vast majority of its participants.

    Fourth, at the local level, municipalities must develop policies for the rental of electric scooters and bicycles to establish cooperation between local authorities and companies that provide rental services. Fifth, the government has to conduct information campaigns to promote sustainable modes of transport, their positive impact on the environment, health, urban economy.

    Post-COVID world

    The COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on transportation. U-Cycle NGO consulting coordinator Kateryna Shulha explains that the effects of the pandemic on mobility remain to be studied. But it is already noticeable that in cities people have become less likely to use transport, walk more and ride bicycles.

    In addition, people have reconsidered their habits, more and more people have started working near home or remotely. Many people understand that it is not necessary to live in cities. You can live outside the city. This also applies to companies that have started building offices outside the city. This will also have an impact on urban planning. However, it is still difficult to assess.

    “We have to wait a while to understand what the world will be like. This will be clear after vaccination in Europe. I do not rule out that the demand for public transport will be slightly lower because people will walk more, ride bicycles,” Kateryna Shulha emphasizes.

    Sharing services will be distributed in small towns and villages.

    In this, they even have an advantage over large cities. In Europe, a study found that the best transport in rural areas is a neighbor’s car. So now they are promoting this way of traveling short distances. In Poland, special mobile applications are being developed for this purpose.

    However, increasing the number of joint trips is necessary to develop Internet access in rural areas. This will reduce the number of trips by individual transport.

    So, in the near future, we will see the era of electric cars and electric vehicles. Sharing will be actively developed. Surprisingly, small towns and villages here are even in a better position than the cities.

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