Introducing: micro-mobility. You may not have heard the term before, but it’s a trend you’re sure to have noticed already. Micro-mobility refers to single-occupant modes of transportation, like bike sharing (e.g. Villo, Velo, BlueBike…) , e-bikes (e.g. Billy,…) and e-scooters (e.g. Troty, Lime-s, Scooty, Poppy,…) . These shared transport modes change the way we look at getting around and are transforming the way we use our cities. The future is set to be all about lightweight electric vehicles, allowing us to move quickly and cheaply.
Think of bike sharing, for example, which is winning over more and more consumers by the day. And who doesn’t know the shared scooters, scattered across the city waiting for a new user to hop on. Both are perfect for short trips and they’re on the rise everywhere. More and more options for micro-mobility are presented every day, as an answer to traffic congestion – and even to counter climate change. It’s no surprise that most of these services take pride in being electric and sustainable.
Today, they’re truly disrupting the ridesharing industry, pushing back on car trips for shorter distances. They’re more convenient and often more affordable than taxis or public transport.
So, there’s that. But what’s in it for you? It’s not like this micro-mobility trend can affect your real estate portfolio in any way, right?
Wrong. But before we look into its effects on your real estate investment strategy, let’s take a closer look at the impact it’s having on our cities, and on us as consumers.
Research shows that micro-mobility is primarily used for commuting, and as a way to fill in the gaps in public transportation. This increase in micro-mobility users on our city streets isn’t always met with matching infrastructure, and bike lanes and sidewalks can sometimes become congested as a result. It also requires a shift in the mindset of other traffic users, who now have to share the same public space with different modes of transportation.
But that’s not the only challenge. With e-scooters piling up on our sidewalks, they risk becoming a danger to both inhabitants and passers-by. Some ideas to solve this problem are being rolled out around the world, ranging from in-street zones for dockless e-scooters and bikes to geofencing, deactivating scooters when they’re on sidewalks and reactivating them when they’re in bike lanes. It will be crucial for policy makers and urban planners to take this new mode of mobility into account in cities’ infrastructure.
Rules and regulations are key to smoothing out the introduction of these modes of transportation into traffic. While these rules are intended to improve safety, they can also be a source of income for cities and municipalities. Licensing fees, permits, fees per trip or per vehicle… the possibilities abound.
So yes, these new forms of transportation involve complications. However, the public sees them as viable means of transport and the general opinion about them is favourable. Let’s take a closer look at how this trend impacts us as consumers.
At consumer level, shared bike systems with annual fees seem to peak at rush hour – a typical commuting pattern. E-scooters are more frequently used on the weekends and during the evening hours, making it the preferred mode of transport for social and recreational purposes.
While early adopters of the system were primarily young people, trends now show a greater variety of consumers. Looking at the adoption timeline, the pace of uptake depends on three prerequisites: acceptance, convergence and scalability. For now, we’re facing a medium acceptance level, with concerns about both rider and pedestrian safety. The affordability of the system, on the other hand, is a big plus.
There are some downsides to the systems: vandalism and theft, for starters, but also the limited ability to multitask. Nevertheless, we can quite safely state that the estimated timeframe for widespread adoption is immediate. The impact of these systems will escalate in an extremely short period of time.
As an investor or occupier, it would be wise to prepare for the incoming disruption. In the short and medium term, you can get ready by redesigning space to make room for micro-mobility parking and storage, and turning excess parking spots into bike and e-scooter docks.
Provide charging facilities for e-bikes and provide the necessary infrastructure to integrate these modes of mobility. These amenities will be a huge asset for future tenants, who may be able to turn these into benefits for commuting employees.
This trend is unstoppable, and ever larger groups of commuters and consumers are adopting these transportation modes: the sensible thing to do is to be prepared and provide the crucial infrastructure needed to support this mobility transition.