Micromobility companies need to deploy fleets of mixed vehicles if we want to get more people out of cars and into the bike lane
By Candice Xie, Co-Founder and CEO, Veo
Our transportation systems are failing much of the population. Buses that don’t accommodate strollers, streets with inadequate bike infrastructure, and the over-prioritization of peak-hour transit schedules are just a few examples. Without better options, many travelers resort to driving. This got me thinking — what barriers do people face when it comes to micromobility?
My company, Veo, recently released a survey report that synthesizes the behaviors and needs of over 1,600 riders across our 30+ markets in North America. One finding stood out: The majority of riders over the age of 25 prefer a seated scooter over a standing scooter. That’s right: most riders prefer a seated scooter in a world that is dominated by standing scooters.
Following the Data: Making It Easier for People To Use Micromobility as a Car Alternative
Veo’s user research has shown that our seated scooter, which has large tires and a lower center of gravity, is popular because it gives people a greater sense of balance and control. Ridership data confirms demand for a seated model: seated scooters are used 23% more often in markets where both standing and seated scooters are available, with riders traveling about a mile longer on the seated model. Meanwhile, our standing scooter remains a popular choice for many riders, fulfilling a clear need for short trips and even proving more popular on rainy days when a seat can be difficult to dry off.
We must look at bike design with the same scrutiny. Ask anyone who has tried an e-bike for the first time and you’ll hear rave reviews about how the electric-assist makes it easier to ride. Ridership data confirms the popularity of e-bikes: Veo’s e-bikes receive on average four times as many rides per day as our pedal-only bikes. What happens when you add a throttle to an e-bike for an additional boost? Veo’s class II throttle-assist e-bikes receive an additional four times as many rides per day as our standard e-bikes.
Sometimes, simple innovations like adding a seat to a scooter or a throttle to an e-bike can be transformational. User research has found that many traditionally underrepresented groups such as women and older riders prefer these vehicles because they provide a greater sense of comfort and don’t require the need to stand or pedal — which is great when you prefer a more balanced ride or are dressed up for work. This information provides important learnings for micromobility’s future.
Cities Want to Reduce Emissions. Riders Want Options. Mixed Fleets Are the Answer.
Micromobility has great potential to help cities reach their climate goals — especially if we can get more people riding. It’s been well documented that protected bike lanes boost ridership. As city leaders and street safety advocates work to build the political will to install protected bike infrastructure, there’s more we as an industry can do to get riders in the bike lane.
A number of additional barriers discourage people from riding bikes and scooters. Some people don’t want to pedal bikes in the heat, rain, or wind. Others don’t feel comfortable pedaling, can’t pedal, or don’t know how to ride a bike. And as we learned in our survey, not everyone feels comfortable getting around on a standing scooter.
The micromobility industry and cities can act now to overcome these barriers. Riders are not a monolith and we must design accordingly. From the nurse who prefers a seated scooter to commute home after a long day standing, to the student who wants to get to class on a standing scooter, to the parent who prefers a throttle-assist e-bike to make it home in time for family dinner — offering a mix of vehicle types is key to meeting the needs of a diverse rider base.
Here are three ways cities can increase micromobility adoption today:
- Follow the numbers — give riders what they want. As innovation takes place and new vehicle types become available, cities should let ridership statistics determine what vehicles are on the streets. Cities get a tremendous amount of data about what types of vehicles riders are using through MDS. Together, cities and operators must let that data guide decisions on fleet composition in order to meet the needs of each community.
- Incentivize mixed fleets in micromobility application processes. Cities should ensure micromobility companies are willing to offer mixed fleets, with a guarantee that a mix of quality seated and standing vehicles will be available to the community at all times. City stakeholders should personally demo vehicle types and ask members of their community to join them and share feedback.
- Make regulations that prioritize safety but remain flexible. When a vehicle that appeals to many riders is sidelined simply because outdated regulations don’t specifically acknowledge that vehicle type, riders lose out. City micromobility regulations must adapt to the pace of innovation to allow for vehicles that will expand access to more riders. Focus on what matters: Does the vehicle fit in a bike lane? Is it limited to 15 MPH or less? Does it offer new safety features? Is it designed for the rigors of shared use?
To grow and diversify ridership, micromobility must mean mixed fleets. Today this means seated and standing scooters, class I and class II e-bikes, accessible wheelchair devices, and pedal bikes. We must continue to innovate to keep up with rider demand. Our mixed fleet future could mean increasing micromobility access for parents with children, cargo hauling, features that support all-weather riding, and more. Cities and micromobility companies must work together to increase ridership with mixed fleets of light electric vehicles if we want a true shot at building the more equitable and sustainable transportation systems that our communities need and deserve.