Shared micromobility - what is it and is it in your decarbonisation plan?

'Shared micromobility’ is a relatively new term that covers a wide range of shared, small, lightweight vehicles, including bikes, e-bikes, e-scooters and cargo bikes.

Short-term access to these vehicles for one-way trips is provided within a defined operating area, typically via an app. Users pay on a trip-by-trip basis or by subscription, with vehicles parked anywhere, in designated parking areas, or at docking stations.

According to the shared transport charity CoMoUK, there are currently 39 bike-share schemes in the UK, with 1.8 million members, and 31 live e-scooter rental trials in England, with many being extended until 2024.

Upcoming Local Transport Plan guidance, due to be published by the Department for Transport (DfT), looks set to include consideration of new business models and transport technologies – such as those emerging from shared micromobility – to deliver on decarbonisation goals.

Shared micromobility schemes will, therefore, be an important consideration for local authorities looking to deliver on their own climate change goals.

If managed correctly, shared micromobility schemes can provide a range of benefits to councils, including:

  • A cheaper transport alternative, with users not bearing upfront vehicle costs or paying for maintenance, insurance and parking.
  • Access to a more sustainable transport option where public transport accessibility levels are low.
  • Improved air quality, with vehicles producing no exhaust emissions.
  • A more space-efficient transport mode than the private car, including cargo bikes, which have a compact design ideal for deliveries in congested city centres.
  • Encouraging a shift away from the use of private cars. CoMoUK found that 34 per cent of shared e-bike journeys replaced car travel, while shared e-scooter trials in Portsmouth and Southampton indicated that around 40 per cent of trips replaced a car journey.
  • An additional, sustainable travel option for users with low fitness levels or health difficulties.
  • Supporting the case for cycling infrastructure (which, in turn, could increase the case for less car-dependent new housing and commercial developments).

Currently, micromobility regulation has not caught up with the development of new vehicle types, and councils are well versed in the lack of regulation and enforcement challenges associated with private e-scooters.

While e-bikes that meet the Government’s standards are legal to use on public roads, privately owned e-scooters are not. Where shared e-scooters have been launched as part of the DfT’s e-scooter rental trials, these vehicles are legal to use on public roads, subject to users holding a provisional or full driving licence.

This has created a confusing situation for local authorities and users alike.

The UK Government plans to introduce a transport bill to provide greater regulatory clarity in respect of micromobility vehicles, including e-scooters, but also other future, similar vehicle types.

To ensure the benefits of shared micromobility are optimised, local authorities will need to consider safety mitigations, infrastructure, parking provision, operational arrangements, procurement options, and data requirements.

Additionally, shared micromobility schemes may require financial support and need to be promoted in local transport plans, with support from local stakeholders.

A report is being developed for the LGA by Steer, in which these benefits and considerations are explored in detail. The full report will be published on the LGA’s website and discussed at an LGA webinar. Find out more on the LGA website.

Written by Lucy Cooper, Assistant Consultant at Steer. This article was originally published in the Local Government Association’s first magazine and appears courtesy of the LGA.

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