This report examines how micromobility (e-scooters, electric bikes and pedal bikes, whether docked or dockless and other forms of light mobility) can address congestion, CO2 emissions and air quality in cities and benefit users. It reviews benefits and social costs to inform the development of governance and regulatory frameworks that can maximise the contribution of shared e-scooters, electric bikes and pedal bikes to accessibility and sustainable mobility and minimise negative effects, particularly for pedestrians.
What we found
Existing urban mobility solutions cannot keep up with the growth of cities and struggle to contain congestion, noise, pollution and inefficient use of limited space. Shared micromobility can reshape urban mobility by offering a sustainable transport option that improves accessibility. Shared micromobility predominantly replaces walking, cycling and public transport trips yet could also substitute short car trips. The broadest benefit of integrating shared micromobility services into urban transport could be increasing the catchment area of public transport. Their widespread availability, particularly for first/last-mile connections, could improve access while shortening commuting time and reducing reliance on cars. However, micromobility – especially e-scooters – raise concerns of nuisance on sidewalks, the safety of users and pedestrians, its substitution over walking reducing the health benefits of physical activity, and potential adverse environmental impacts from the production and disposal of vehicles and batteries and generation of electricity. Negative effects of micromobility need to be weighed against the significant consumer benefits they offer and their potential to replace less sustainable trips. Data on the negative impacts of micromobility suggests these are comparatively small. The whole transport system must be considered from this perspective to make informed policy decisions. Most city authorities agree that micromobility enriches urban mobility, has the potential to change user behaviour and thus help transition to low-carbon urban mobility. Operators and authorities concur that the extent to which such benefits will be reaped depends on getting the regulatory framework for micromobility right. Finding agreement on what interventions work best is challenging, however.
What we recommend
Base regulation on sustainable urban mobility policy objectives
Micromobility regulation should support the objectives of sustainable and equitable urban mobility planning. This means facilitating service availability across the urban area and promoting accessibility. It should also foster innovation and competition between operators and manage their use of street space. Integration with other modes, particularly public transport, will create social welfare benefits and replace car travel offered by these new services and improve accessibility. For micromobility to contribute to reversing car-dependent mobility will depend primarily on broader regulatory and fiscal policies to contain car traffic.
Consult micromobility companies on public policy issues early and often to avoid distorting regulations
Proactive engagement and collaboration with micromobility companies should help reduce the need for distorting regulations. City authorities should consider constructive proposals from micromobility companies for meeting overall mobility objectives in the way they regulate and award concessions. On their end, micromobility companies should be proactive in addressing public concerns.
Apply outcome-based regulations linked to specific performance criteria
Cities should focus on the expected outcomes from a regulation instead of specific, mandatory processes or actions. Identifying clear performance indicators is helpful to understand how successful operators are and where they can improve. Criteria such as the number of trips per micro-vehicle per day should be used to regulate fleet size instead of static fleet caps. Targets for stationing vehicles in areas with poor transit access could ensure that micromobility serves sustainability and equity objectives. Cities should work with operators on performance criteria and base regulation on factors within micromobility providers’ control.
Ensure limits on market access allow competition; avoid static caps on shared micromobility vehicle fleets
Cities need to monitor markets to ensure that any limits imposed on the number of operators do not unduly limit availability or competition. Sharing a restricted number of permits equally between many operators may compromise the sustainability of operations. At the same time, markets with only three players raise concerns over potential oligopolistic behaviour. Instead of arbitrarily restricting the number of operators, cities should encourage competition among them and accept multiple operators as part of the city’s mix of mobility services. Where a city sees a need to manage the number of shared micromobility vehicles on its streets, it should use dynamic caps based on specific performance indicators, such as the utilisation rate of vehicles, rather than by a static limit. Lower utilisation rates might be appropriate in neighbourhoods of concern in respect to inclusivity.
Limit data-reporting requirements to information used for mobility planning
Data reporting is an essential aspect of designing outcome-based regulations. When mandating data reporting, cities need to consider how the data will be used. Thought should be given to the strategic goal and the most valuable data to reach it. Producing performance indicators for sustainability and accessibility requires data on deployment, repositioning, use and lifetime of vehicles. Mandates should limit the reporting burden on operators to data needed for agreed performance benchmarks. Generally, all transport modes should have fair and balanced reporting requirements. Such data would enable cities to identify priorities for improvement and understand their impact on the whole transport network.
Set regulatory fees in light of the potential value of micromobility for sustainable mobility and the uncertain viability of business models
High regulatory fees imposed on micromobility companies are likely to limit the supply, reduce socio-economic welfare and make operations unviable. Cities should ensure that any fees are consistent with the negative impacts they are intended to address. Governments could consider bearing (the majority of) regulation administrative costs when justified by the benefits of more widespread use of micromobility.
Support equitable and affordable micromobility services
Shared micromobility should be promoted in areas of cities that are not currently well served by public transport networks. To ensure that it is financially viable for micromobility companies to provide service in all areas of the city, cities should minimise the burdens on providers from fees and caps on fleets. Cities might consider subsidies to service providers to achieve desired connectivity improvements.
Follow the principle of mode-neutrality when developing an urban transport system
City authorities should consider all transport modes when planning, regulating and funding transport services. They should assess their respective contribution to positive social, economic, and environmental outcomes. Governments should treat all transport modes fairly when imposing limits on access, speed or parking. They should evaluate the rules and fees applied to different transport modes – particularly to private cars – before putting in place restrictive regulations for micromobility. Comparing the full costs and charges for different types of transport will improve decisions on policy interventions.
Reallocate road and parking space to micromobility users, cyclists and pedestrians
Roads and parking spaces are disproportionally allocated to cars. Shared micromobility has increased the demand for redistributing urban space. Expanding dedicated cycling lanes to accommodate micromobility will also improve conditions for cyclists and enhance safety and safety perceptions. This will make it more attractive to cycle and use electric micromobility. Getting parking right is crucial. Sharing schemes as well as personal micromobility will benefit from repurposing private car parking spaces. This can maximise the take-up of these modes and thus help realise their wider benefits for urban policy. At the same time, it would reduce nuisance and minimise conflicts between modes.
Address motor vehicle speeds when regulating micromobility speed
Speed limits for micro-vehicles should recognise the value of speed for establishing micromobility as an alternative to car trips. A speed limit of 25 km/h on appropriate infrastructure makes micromobility more competitive with cars than limiting speed to 20 km/h. Lower speeds may be appropriate in areas with heavy pedestrian traffic. More broadly, 30 km/h is the maximum limit recommended for cars in city streets to reduce the risk of death or serious injury from a collision of cars with pedestrians and other vulnerable road users. Limiting cars, motorised two-wheelers and micromobility to the same low speeds on streets with mixed motorised and non-motorised traffic is a logical approach.
Apply coherent regulation that treats micromobility operators equally
Agreeing on a single set of rules applied uniformly across all operators in a city will facilitate the use of micromobility and reduce the regulatory burden on companies. Micromobility should be regulated as a class, not device by device, given similar operational characteristics in terms of speed and size. Neighbouring cities should also co-ordinate to harmonise approaches. Direction from national-level governments can help to standardise regulation but should avoid suppressing innovation by operators and regulators. Safety characteristics of vehicles also require coherent regulation.
Adopt a permissive and adaptive regulatory approach to micromobility
Governments should ensure that regulatory interventions do not impede innovation. Regulation should allow service providers to adopt new business models and technologies and respond to demand. Regulatory barriers should be minimised to enable operators to gain footholds in urban mobility markets. Micromobility is at an early stage of innovation and requires flexible regulation for market access that is updated as the market evolves. Trialling regulatory approaches has proven valuable in many cities. Pilot projects produce data for evaluation and allow insights into how behaviours and outcomes change. They allow experimentation, bedding in and solving problems through experience and negotiation before regulatory intervention. Evaluations and amendments should be planned and clear timelines provided to micromobility companies to reduce uncertainty and risks to their business models.”