The second MOVE 2020 event played host to hundreds of speakers hailing from all corners of the mobility sector over the last two days, including those involved in bike share and the cycling industry.
One panel discussion hosted by smart vehicle sharing system Vaimoo honed in on the role of bicycle and scooter sharing in cities, and both the benefits and the challenges associated with integrating shared systems into local networks.
Matthias Wilrich, Vice President of Vehicles and Supply Chain for micromobility company Tier Mobility, said there are currently three challenges facing mobility players attempting to operate in this sector; scaling the business up, responsible implementation of the service, and making sure the service is safe, and safety advice is heeded.
“Each new micromobility player or vehicle faces scepticism, people need to adopt and accept new technology,” he said. “We have a responsibility to educate people too, if they aren’t using it or parking it properly then this blurs the perception of the vehicle. We need customers to behave properly to enable non-customers to become closer to the product.”
According to Wilrich, the adoption rate of electric scooters has been faster than that of any other vehicle on the market, however he reiterated, “safety is important, we need to educate operators and customers on how to use the vehicle properly, use digital services to help inform people about them.”
Wilrich was joined on the panel by Mobility Developer for shared services provider Kolumbus, Espen Strand Henriksen, who stated getting mobility on the agenda of politicians is key to the sector’s growth, as is collaborating with local real estate projects and authorities.
“We need to look at mobility from a public sector point of view,” he offered. “We should be targeting employers and employees, local municipalities and real estate projects to integrate bicycles, scooters and other mobility services. Collaboration is a big learning opportunity for both sides. We try to act as the bridge between the players and the users.”
Henriksen also voiced his concerns about the number of licences handed out to mobility providers in cities like Barcelona, which has recently seen 21 separate contracts awarded to scooter companies to operate in the city.
“This is not what the market wants,” he said. “Maybe we should be looking at tenders rather than lots of licences, where one or two players in the market win the tender to provide the service in a particular city in order to keep the market competitive. This would need a more flexible and dynamic approach, perhaps through collaboration between different service providers for one tender, or something like that.”
And this is an important factor in scaling up the micromobility sector, Wilrich agrees: “If you look at those who are investing in mobility, you can see the market is economically sustainable. The question is how we can develop it. Eventually, we will face the challenge that it’s not just about who has the most scooters or bikes on the street, but who offers the best customer centricity and user experience.”
The third member on the panel, Peter Vest, COO of Bikeshare Danmark, also agreed with the above, stating he does not believe in single vehicle operators: “We’ve forgotten we’re sharing companies, not rental companies. There should be a system of mobility ‘hubs’, where users can go from one to the other using a scooter, then a bicycle and then use public transport.”
He went on to raise the point that the decisions around licences and tenders need to be made by politicians and local authorities.
“We have allowed politicians to become too impractical in micromobility. We have let them off the hook too easily. We need to remind politicians what micromobility is all about – sharing is caring about the environment.”
E-Scooter legality is currently undergoing consultation in the UK, with the Government seeming to wish to align legislation with that of e-Bikes. This in turn may provide a much-needed boost to the UK’s mobility offering and increase the pressure on improving active travel infrastructure for cities up and down the country.
However, with the Government’s most recent funding pledge handing English cities less than five miles of cycling infrastructure each, we may be waiting a while longer to fully unleash the benefits of shared mobility.