ICYMI: This Week in Micro-Mobility, June 14th Edition

ICYMI: This Week in Micro-Mobility, June 14th Edition

by Timothy Ericson

There wouldn’t be a Zagster if it weren’t for Timothy Ericson. As Founder and Chief Business Officer, Timothy is responsible for growing Zagster and reshaping cities with its nifty microtransit solutions. Also, if you’re looking for a wine recommendation, he’s your guy.

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Timothy Ericson

Founder and CBO

This week’s newsletter includes stories about the ups and downs of the global micro-mobility space, bike-friendly legislation in Congress, how local governments can regulate multiple modes of micro-mobility, a bike share launch in Superior (WI), the importance of a sustainable employment model to grow micro-mobility, and improving unit economics of e-scooters. Let’s roll!

On Monday, SmartCitiesWorld published a great analysis of recent trends in the global micro-mobility space. The article references bike-sharing companies pulling out of key markets in the UK, Europe, and India, which might suggest a gloomy outlook for the space. But as the author explains, “there’s more to the story than meets the eye.” The article emphasizes the need for long-term collaboration and responsible partnering to unlock micro-mobility’s potential: “In the long run, successful mobility solutions won’t be a stand-alone scooter or ride-hailing service but those that integrate between various modes of transport to provide seamless” solutions. We fully agree that collaboration and multi-modal integration are the way forward.

This rapid maturation of the micro-mobility market is not necessarily a bad thing. It forces operators to put profits, innovation and long-term sustainability at the core of their business decisions.
— SmartCitiesWorld

Our friends at the League of American Bicyclists are amazing advocates for bike safety and necessary investments in bike infrastructure. The Bike League’s website notes that H.R. 3040, “The Safe Streets Act,” was just introduced in Congress. The proposed legislation would ensure states spend more of their funds on ensuring the safety of vulnerable users: bicyclists, pedestrians, and people using mobility devices. States currently spend less than 1% of federal highway safety funding on infrastructure projects to promote safety for bicyclists and pedestrians, which is woefully insufficient. The Bike League is asking for your help: “Please ask your Representative to co-sponsor H.R. 3040 at bikeleague.org/TakeAction.”

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At Zagster, we’re well aware that multiple modes of micro-mobility present regulatory challenges for local governments. While communities want more mobility options for their residents, they also want safety and a level of control. A must-read Moving Forward Blog post focuses on different ways local governments can get the most of multiple modes of micro-mobility while controlling some of its risks. The post written by Susan Shaheen and Adam Cohen discusses (1) device caps, where communities limit the number of vehicles, (2) service area limitations, which control where vehicles may and may not go (often controlled via geofencing technology), (3) operational requirements around speed and general use of vehicles, and more. The post concludes by looking at how cities like Seattle (WA) and Santa Monica (CA) have deployed their regulatory toolkit in multi-modal scenarios.

Last week’s newsletter previewed a “Superior” Saturday bike share launch organized by our community partners in Superior, Wisconsin. The launch included Mayor Jim Paine leading a Zagster bike ride to the Thirsty Scholar Pub, and the ride turned out to be a massive success. The local TV news station, FoxNews 21, sent a crew to interview the Mayor and several riders (view the video). When asked about the Zagster launch and biking in general, Mayor Paine said: “We know bikes are good for our health, for our environment, and are an affordable means of transport. So the money people would have spent on buying a car can go back into our local economy.” A Duluth (MN) resident who had come over to ride with Mayor Paine spoke of her nearby city’s need to adopt some of Superior’s love for biking. While we won’t wade into the differences between Duluth and Superior, we’d like to see every community offer a bike share program for its residents.

Image by Lia Kantrowitz

Image by Lia Kantrowitz

A Forbes article offers an important look at how employment models can support (or not) the growth of micro-mobility. In many cities where operators use a “gig model” of employment, “an army of people set out to track down dead, abandoned scooters and charge them up for cash,” notes Forbes. Sometimes, arguments ensue among these competing “gig chargers,” which serves nobody. Forbes makes the case that employment models need to be considered as part of the overall user experience with micro-mobility: "companies that focus on improving user experience for all stakeholders, not just end users [but workers too], will be the ones that win." That’s why Zagster hires, trains, and offers career paths to people in our communities. Our employment model is integral to how we do business, and part of our core values -- community-centrism, collaboration, and sustainable growth.

Finally, The Promise and Pitfalls of E-Scooter Sharing (by Boston Consulting Group/BCG) focuses on the unit economics of e-scooters, which (as we’ve discussed at length before) are generally not good. The high use of scooters in shared mobility puts stress on the vehicles, as does the potential for theft and vandalism. Operational costs to charge and move scooters represent additional costs. But things are changing: “improvements are already in the works. Longer-lasting or swappable batteries will reduce the need for charging and operations . . . several providers are developing their own hardware to boost product durability to as much as ten months (and some have already rolled out a more rugged line of e-scooters). These measures, along with economies of scale in production, will enhance e-scooters’ profitability considerably.” You know what else adds to the profitability of scooters? Capable, caring people managing scooter fleets, making repairs and educating users about proper use. It’s not just the vehicle, but the operational excellence behind it that unlocks profitability.

Thanks for riding along, and enjoy your weekend!