Micromobility is a category of modes of transport that are provided by very light vehicles such as electric scooters, electric skateboards, shared bicycles and electric pedal assisted, pedelec, bicycles.
The primary condition for inclusion in the category is a gross vehicle weight of less than 500 kg. Additional conditions are the provision of a motor, primary utility use, and availability as a shared service.
The term evokes a transition similar to that of microcomputing where the miniaturization of transport modes for short journeys parallels the miniaturization of microcomputers for personal use. The term was coined by business and technology analyst Horace Dediu, in a speech he delivered in 2017 at the Micromobility Summit in the Techfestival event in Copenhagen.
Implementations of micromobility in practice arose in the late 2010s as a solution to the 'last mile' of personal transportation, particularly in congested urban areas. Rather than use existing modes, a user would join a micromobility sharing network to be able to ride distances typically less than one mile. Early services specified locations, or docks, where vehicles needed to be picked up and left, but the second generation of sharing services employed a dockless model in which vehicles can be left anywhere or within a geo-fenced area. Micromobility has been instrumental in what is known as the unbundling of the automobile, or the availability of personal shared vehicles designed for short journeys.
While the vehicles had long been available for users to purchase, it was the servitization of these modes of transportation, allowing users to use the nearest micromobility vehicle without having to purchase, bring with them or secure safely when not in use, that led to the unprecedented growth of this practice in areas where it was available. This growth has reduced usage of personal automobiles and, in concert with the financial opportunities, has led to global automakers such as Ford and GM to invest in a variety of micromobility services.
Megacities in China were where dockless bike sharing first took off and although it began with traditional, non-electric, bicycles, it served as the template for what would be possible with electrically-powered and motorized scooters, skateboards and bicycles. The availability or relatively inexpensive batteries, displays and GPS receivers, enabled by the smartphone supply chains, provided easily accessible components for dockless services worldwide.
Popularity and reception
Considered the fastest adoption of technology, the speed of this diffusion has not come without growing pains. Some cities were caught off guard with the sudden influx of dockless vehicles, but in short order many cities had created a regulatory framework that would permit these services to more seamlessly integrate with existing transportation. As operators, users and municipalities have found an equilibrium and the benefits of micromobility have become apparent, other cities have begun to actively engage with operators in order to bring this mode of transport to their citizens.
Within the EU vehicle categorization micromobility vehicles fall under the L category, and are excluded from the M, N, O and higher categories.
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