Micro-mobility: the next big thing?

Micro-mobility: the next big thing?


European Commission, European Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc and DG MOVE organized an international event about micro mobility in Ljubljana, on Monday, October 14th 2019. Representatives from 30 countries attended, including from Russia and India. Participants discussed the current situation and how to plan mobility for the future.


Micro-mobility as a mode of transport includes small vehicles like bicycles, electric bicycles, preferably electric motorcycles, scooters and electric scooters, skateboards including electric ones, electric drones for people transportation and other similar vehicles. Thematic addresses a need of the people to have an opportunity of relatively quick, flexible, sometimes, in comparison to other modes of transport, healthier option of vehicles to safely move in a specific and dedicated space. It is closely connected to spatial and logistic planning, infrastructure and business models like vehicle rentals and vehicle sharing systems, optionally combined with public transport and walking.

Micro mobility is considered to support measures addressing reduction of air pollution from fossil fuel vehicles, reduction of traffic congestions and in time, at least partially, replace the use of private cars. In consequence this means reduction of parking spaces in urban areas and elsewhere, reduction of the number of privately-owned cars by households, new business opportunities in densely populated settlements, regions or countries. In short it is a part of multi-modal means of transportation and a part of an idea of Mobility as a Service.

Several questions are arising related to the thematic: What kind of measures do we need to take, to implement it as soon as possible? How can we speed up EU type approval legislation? How can we make micro-mobility safe? What would be the appropriate age of the users, speed limits in urban areas etc.?  Is micro-mobility applicable as a business model also in the sparsely populated areas and under which conditions to implement it, if not?  Since they are countries like Japan, or cities like Paris, which banned it for the safety reasons, what do we need to consider to make it safe for all the road users? How to promote it? Do we need European funds to support implementation? What kind of funding schemes do we need? How and where can we implement new technologies and digitalization? What are the issues of data ownership and data sharing? Are there issues regarding user privacy?

In addition to addressing all the above questions, some workshops went beyond the focus of the thematic and initiated discussions about integrated solutions of peoples’ mobility and identification of how some decision makers think and which ideas do they support. The most radical standpoints were to eliminate use of vehicles entirely or at least eliminate the private person ownership of cars entirely. Mobility as a service, means of transportation and infrastructure should be in their opinion owned by private or state companies as a part of a public transport service. “People owning cars should be considered as selfish”, stated Kurt Vella St John form Transport Malta, who’s “aim is to make owning a private vehicle obsolete”. Slowly, however, systematically the number of parking places should be eliminated and car lanes dedicated to micro-mobility vehicles and walking, beside using trains and busses. There was no discussion about trams or trolleybuses. No one of the group advocating this standpoint gave any information on how would this change influence the multibillion automotive industry and world economy or what is the real opinion of the people about owning vehicles, including cars. The counter position to people deciding rationally according to their life style, wants and needs to cope with everyday activities was, by the opinion of Bronwen Thornton, CEO Walk 21, that people make decisions upon their emotions and choose the most convenient option of transport, which is in most cases a car.  Could this be understood that therefor people need to be told what is the right thing to do and what mode of transport is the most appropriate for them? Taking Henry Ford’s statement about people thinking they need horses as a mean of transport, this is exactly what we may understand. “What is wrong by not having any private space exclusively for yourself anymore?” Asked Bronwen Thornton, who considers implementation of micro-mobility as a revolution.

On the other side they are participants who consider that micro-mobility should be implemented as a complementary mobility option in a way corresponding to the needs and readiness of a certain society, with optionally custom-made solutions needed to be considered on all levels of implementation. There is much to be considered. When reducing an option of mobility, the capacities of another option or options of transport modes need to be accordingly increased. The policymakers and service providers should aim to increase the comfort for the user and optimize costs. Convenience, flexibility, travel times and safety need to be considered according to seasonal shifts, i.e. weather conditions, demographic changes and population density.

As a next step, the attendees are expecting from the organisers, is the elaboration of policy suggestions upon the results of the event’s workshops and discussions. These policy measures proposed will be amended by the attendees of the yesterday’s event and then proposed to the relevant political stakeholders, policy makers and decision-makers in Brussels.  Attendees were asked to consider digitalisation of services when proposing mobility service solutions.

The next conference on micro-mobility organised by European Commission will take place in Lisbon, Portugal, next year.

For more information about the content of the event “Micro-mobility: the next big thing?” open the link:  https://www.avp-rs.si/en/micro-mobility-the-next-big-thing/