Micromobility modes could replace 20 percent of short car trips

March 24, 2022


Micromobility modes could replace 1/5 of short car trips according to a new research in the US at the Carnegie Mellon University. Corey Harper, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering (CEE) and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University, led and produced research that simulated the efficacy of an ebike fleet in Seattle.

Micromobility city 20 percent

The 3 Mile Rule:

The simulation found that 18 percent of short, private vehicle trips of up to three miles could be replaced with ebikes.

The biggest threat Micromobility poses is to the mini cab market. We have written before how Lime is going all out to compete with mini cabs in London.

The University's results indicated that micromobility could reduce congestion on crowded corridors. The wide-scale bike lane deployment can maximize congestion benefits.

Micromobility modes are defined as single passenger vehicles weighing less than 1,100 pounds . A top speed no greater than 28 miles per hour, and lacking an internal combustion engine.

This also means self-propelled or electrically-powered vehicles like bikes, e-bikes, scooters, and e-scooters. These attributes make it highly conductive to urban travel. Especially under 3 miles.

These short trips make up 50 percent of all private vehicle trips in most urban areas.

The research looked at a travel survey and weather data from Seattle in 2014, to estimate the upper bound of private vehicle trips that could be replaced with micromobility modes. They considered multiple trip factors, including a person's age, trip purpose, time of day, and weather, which the research noted may vary from city to city.

Cargo Bikes increases short trips on Micromobility.

A city could increase the number of replaced short trips—from 18 up to 29 percent in Seattle. By increasing the deploying cargo bikes with storage for tasks like grocery shopping improves the number of short trips with micromobility.

Harper and his co-author Zhufeng Fan, a Ph.D. student, believe that as micromobility modes become more accessible and people become more reliant on them for daily commuting. Subsequently they will become better adapted and resilient to moderately inclement conditions like rain or cold. Something we have discussed the a latest blog.

Regular usage could also bring significant public health benefits.

While micromobility could have a major impact on urban congestion, travel speeds, and associated costs, it will have to be partnered with solutions elsewhere for reducing emissions.

Due to the miles travelled, a majority of emissions come from long distance trips. Harper points to investments needed in electric vehicle deployment across public, private, and commercial sectors; investment in commuter transit; and using micromobility modes for last-mile parcel delivery.

The research goes on to say:

"Replacing short trips is good for public health and congestion, but micromobility can only decrease emissions by two to three percent," he said. "We need things like vehicle electrification, commuter busses, and charging infrastructure. We're going to need to do a lot more to reduce a significant amount of emissions."

In Pittsburgh, Harper works in collaboration with the public bike share system Healthy Ride. He's helping by creating tools to predict where bike stations are most needed and to ensure they are distributed equitably. He hopes the benefits of micromobility will be matched by investments in bicycle infrastructure and cleaner transportation to help cities equitably accomplish the White House's climate goals

However, the impacts to energy use and emissions are disproportionately low, and other measures such as vehicle electrification are needed to meet climate change emissions targets.