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Why should you be paying attention to #micromobility? Because it represents a fundamental rethink of transport as we've known it.

I presented at the @motnz yesterday about this very topic. It tied a lot of what we've discussed on the podcast, so thought I'd share here. 1/n
I start with asking when the first year canned dog meat was produced. When do you think it was? More importantly, what caused it?
It was 1922. The year after peak horse in the US. It was enabled by cheap horse meat from the slaughterhouses as people started using their cars for more things. Important: this was 10 years after the first cars. Initially, they were additive to the existing transport paradigm.
The thesis that @asymco and I talk about is that the car is being unbundled. What does this mean? A car is a bundle of trips that you buy. You pay $20-30k for the option to take ~5000 trips whenever you want. It's expensive but predictable & therefore of value.
But what's happening is that this optionality value is being broken into smaller trips that can be purchased when you need them. You don't need to own a car to get access to one(@Zipcar , or to get a ride (@Uber). It's generally called Mobility-As-A-Service (MaaS).
And it's starting to eat lots of things. @Uber is now offering trains alongside UberX rides. In NZ, all providers are aggregated into one system (and they want to make it more flexible so PT can be fulfilled on demand etc.). It's in this context that micromobility is coming.
These new #micromobility vehicles are enabled by radically reduced costs in batteries, GSM, GPS, motors and smartphones. Segways, with largely the same components as today's scooters cost $9000 at launch. Now you can get something for $500. It's enabled an explosion of creativity
We define #micromobility by three traits: electric, utility, lightweight. We define lightweight as sub 500kgs/1000lbs. This is because we can't make cars sub 500kgs anymore. There's a whole space for electric vehicles to explore in their search for product/market fit.
And we see these vehicles being everything from small kick scooters to bikes, motorbike equivs, cabin'ed Ebikes to cabin motorcycles. There is a huge proliferation of types coming - @MicromobilityCo we can't keep up tracking everything new. It's bloody awesome!
Well why does this matter you say? I'll tell you why.
The world is urbanising quickly. NZ is already 80%+ urbanised and have some of the most congested cities in Australasia. We can't keep going like we have. Transport also happens to be our largest and fastest growing area of emissions, and we have no viable plan to address it.
Also it turns out that transport is also still expensive for us. It's our 3rd largest household expense. Want to know why? Because we buy cars to have the optionality to get around. We have the ~highest per capita ownership rates globally ahead of the US. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_c…
And yet, most trips are short. This data is from the US, but our trip distances are the same. We use our cars to go very short distances. That, by any measure, is pretty dumb. Which is where buying trips when you want them and having these fancy new vehicles gets interesting.
Because it turns out that these trips are well suited to micromobility vehicles. Everything from scooters for small little trips to ebikes to emopeds, and all the new vehicles coming. You can buy them when you need them and you end up replacing the majority of the trips you take
Why is this interesting for businesses like @limebike, @BirdRide and @JUMPbyUber? Because that's where the money is. You take a $50 taxi to the airport for 10 miles to take a 2000 mile flight you bought for $60. On a per mile basis trips are more expensive the smaller they get.
Turns out that's where the most emissions come from as well. Short, slow trips are highly inefficient for motors. Those scooter trips happening that replace car trips are the best ones to replace. 50% of emissions come from trips sub 12.5 miles. 25% are sub 5 miles/8km.
And the thing that's exciting is that these vehicles are starting to proliferate. They're cheap and require no licences. They're selling like hotcakes. Their growth has taken everyone by surprise. By comparison, electric cars look like they're just middling along.
And what are they being used for? Well, turns out that a 28% of the buyers of e-bikes cited 'replace car trips' as one of the primary reasons that they're buying these devices. This is just owned micromobility though. What happens when they're accessible via MaaS?
Well they go bananas. Lime and Bird are growing faster on a trip basis than Uber and Lyft did at the same stage of their development. I worked at @Uber
and can tell you - that was like being on a rocket ship. This is another level. I think they call it plaid?
And for context, they're able to start deploying into cities at a pace that would be previously unthinkable. In January, @JUMPbyUber bid for the Chicago bikeshare programme. It didn't get it, but it did offer to deploy 20k Jump bikes by May if selected. 20k bikes! In 5 months.
But Jump's failure to get a permit in Chicago highlights a point. The team at @motnz asked - 'we're going to regulate this schemes at the city level, why worry about inflows of vehicles?' Here's why: They're going to be leased direct to consumers. Cities won't control this.
Consumers will be able to get access to the vehicles they need at the time that they need them. The data in SF shows a consistent pattern - scooters are for short trips, bikes for medium, and emopeds/ebikes for longer trips. They'll string together the services as required.
And what are the impacts of these new services? I think it's important to understand why people are using them. This graph is from Copenhagen, and outlines why people bike around the city. It has nothing to do with cost or environment. It's because it's the quickest way around.
These trips are also far lower in terms of their energy consumption.
And great for public transport - they induce more 4x trips than they offset, and that's with a crappy product that doesn't have the ability to be reserved. Imagine what that'd look like with a guarantee that a scooter/bike will be at the end of the PT trip. It'd induce a ton more
Turns out, despite the pushback, micromobility tends to invigorate cities and town areas. Cheap, point to point transport enables more people to get there faster so they have more time and then have more money to spend. We need to reframe the narrative.
So what cities will benefit most from the rise of micromobility? It's the usual stuff - one's focussed on transit oriented development, providing decent infrastructure and sitting in decent temperate climes.
But there's always those who sit and ask 'whatabout' X? This section is for you. What about weather? If it rains *surely* no-one will use these vehicles. Except that the Nordics, with terrible weather, have the highest modal share. Culture man. And cabin'ed vehicles are coming.
What about safety? 'My mum feels unsafe'. Understandable. This is where you as a regulator need to wake up and start getting serious about low-speed vehicle infrastructure. Build more 'Little Roads' as we call them. Lower speed limits in urban centres. Keep them off footpaths.
Get serious about parking. Most complaints about shared scooters are from footpath litter. You know what - cars park all over the bloody road, we just have created space for them to do that. These vehicles can fit 20:1 in those spots. I've made your job simple for you ;)
Helmets? Needed? Not needed? The data says not, given all the other benefits. But people will wear them and there's a few billion dollar businesses to be built here. @parkanddiamond are building one. Helmets will become fashion items.
The vehicles are getting way smarter - @fantasmoio are building hyper-accurate positioning systems using cameras and ML. They'll know when you're on a footpath/need to slow down. We're getting LIDAR and other sensors. These things will be intelligent and will help keep you safer.
Meanwhile the economics of the shared services (that are, admittedly, haemorrhaging cash) will improve substantially. @asymco has written about the different eras of micromobility. We're at V3 where V5 will print money. It's volving micromobility.io/blog/2019/4/29…
And there's exciting stuff coming - autonomy has the potential to radically reduce rebalancing costs and provide on-demand rides at rates nearing free. If you're interested in finding out more, follow @boxcardavid.
Oh, and what about waste? I just answered that here:
All in all, the future of electric vehicles looks like Jump bikes, not Tesla's.
But this is also what disruption looks like. It sneaks up on you. It looks like cars did to people with horses - trivial and annoying initially till they just overwhelmed them. As such, I suggested we look at a national effort to integrate these vehicles, and embrace them.
That starts with research into understanding who's using them and why, but also into what levers we have to rapidly adjust infrastructure. I also suggested doing more to equalise cars and these vehicles so that we can start to rebalance the car hegemony we've all lived under.
The @motnz were receptive - NZ bureaucrats are very pragmatic, even if they're slow. 'We weren't even talking about this 12 months ago and now you're saying they're going to overwhelm our cities in a few short years. We're like an oil tanker - we take a long time to turn around.'
My sense is that cities/governments are patting themselves on the back that they 'didn't get caught flatfooted like they did with Uber/Lyft' in terms of how they've managed shared micromobility, but they're about to be hit by a flood of innovation that they'll struggle to absorb.
This will be an incredibly interesting time. Looking forward to it - the benefits will be immense, as will be the growing pains. The ones who get ahead of it will benefit a lot. It's imperative that we do. And with that, I hope you all have a great weekend.
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