Micromobility refers to the practice of using a “micro” or “minimalist” device to travel, such as a bike or scooter. The “micro” aspect of the term micromobility refers to the vehicle and driver specifications. Micromobility vehicles are driven by the user themselves, as opposed to a taxi or rickshaw where the user is often merely a passenger. Initially, most micromobility devices were considered to weigh under 1,102 lbs., have a top speed of 16 mph, and were lacking an internal combustion engine. However, since the term micromobility’s creation in 2017, its defintion has broadened to include devices with internal combustion engines and significantly higher top speeds. Micromobility vehicles can be human-powered or electric, and can be privately-owned or available to rent through a company’s shared fleet. This practice is very popular in more urban areas where there are better transport connectivity and less personal vehicle ownership.
The practice of shared micromobility involves a supply of vehicles available to individuals for temporary use. Generally, a companies’ fleet of micromobility vehicles is shared by the public, as is the case with Citi bikes or Bird scooters. Some businesses scatter vehicle centers across a designated locale where devices may be rented and returned. However, more commonly, companies function without centers, and instead disperse a population of lone vehicles. Shared micromobility vehicles are often used in conjunction with an app designed to facilitate customer payment, tracking vehicle location and battery, etc.
Micromobility reduces the use of cars and, in doing so, decreases greenhouse gas emissions. For riders, micromobility devices generally offer a more affordable alternative to using or procuring a car. Unlike buses or trains, micromobility vehicles often allow for greater flexibility in pick-up and drop-off locations. Furthermore, micromobility companies can track user data, such as location, time, etc., that may assist in future vehicle design or city planning.
However, as a result of the industry’s rapid growth, there are few strictly enforced restrictions or regulations that deal with vehicle quality and user responsibilities. Vehicles are left by users in random places, often blocking pedestrian pathways. The vehicles themselves can be known to have an unreliable battery life and may be quickly destroyed by bad terrain or street conditions. Unlike many other forms of travel, micromobility requires especially good weather conditions. In addition, while micromobility devices may be eco-friendly, they require batteries with short lives that must be replaced often.
In 2017 Horace Dediu held a conference, the Micromobility Summit, where he coined the term “micromobility”. He explained the term by comparing micromobility to the concept of microcomputing. Microcomputing describes a computer powered by a microprocessor. Such computing occurs on computers much smaller than the mainframe computers used at the time, and thus inspired the use of the concept “micro” or “mini”. Overtime, the original mainframe computers have fallen to the side, and today, the terms computer and microcomputer are used almost synonymously. Horace Dediu made use of this analogy to convey his thoughts on the term and the future he predicts for the field: micromobility is to mobility as microcomputing is to computing.
In 2018, Seattle became the first US city to establish a permanent set of requirements regarding shared dockless vehicle use. The permit requirements included rules on a variety of issues, including bike design, parking, rider education, marketing, and data sharing.
In 2017 Horace Dediu held a conference, the Micromobility Summit at the Techfestival event in Copenhagen, where he coined the term “micromobility”. He explained the term by comparing micromobility to the concept of microcomputing.
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