Micro Mobility, Past to Present

As a novel idea, micro mobility started to take shape. In what year and with what equipment did this form of transport initially appear? What was the motive behind the creation of shared transportation? ”

Although micro mobility is a newly emerging concept, informal bike sharing networks have existed for over 50 years. It all began in 1965 in Amsterdam. Anarchists painted over 100 bikes white and placed them throughout town for the people to use for free. This was the first urban bike-sharing concept in history. It was called the Witte Fietsenplan (the “white bicycle plan”). This concept may seem simple to us now, but in the 1960s, it was seen as radical, frightening, and threatening to society as a whole. As a result, bicycles were widely accessible (and frequently for free) in many European nations, sparking a cycling revolution. In spite of this, the organization deemed the initiative a failure when the bicycles were stolen, damaged or impounded (DuPuis, Griess& Klein, 2019).



Years later Copenhagen tempted to implement a “coin-based lock and unlock system”, which failed due to theft and vandalism. This takes us to a crucial point in the industry’s future. Portsmouth University in England implemented a bikeshare system that uses a “personal magnetic stripe card to connect individuals to trips.” (DuPuis et al., 2019)

With advancements like electronic locks, improved telecommunications networks, and on-board computers, many European towns began introducing bike sharing operations at the municipal level in the late 1990s. However, adoption remained low until 2005, when Lyon, France, introduced 1,500 bikes into the city. By the end of the year, Velo'v had 15,000 members and an average of 6.5 rides per day per bike (DuPuis, Griess& Klein, 2019).


It was in this manner that bike sharing began to expand rapidly, first in Europe and later in the US. But on the other side of the ocean, a Chinese firm called Ofo, a company which had bike fleets in more than twenty countries, had been under a lot of cash flow pressure because of the mistakes in making right judgements about external changes. They underestimated how long money wars can last in China and as a result, they were unable to protect their funds. It led to a series of bankruptcy cases and large piles of stolen bikes all around the cities. In other words, the ability to manage the process effectively is crucial for the industry's future success.


Scooters have become the most popular micro mobility in the US in less than 18 months. NACTO found that adding scooters to the ecosystem increased micro mobility trips from 35 million in 2017 to 84 million in 2018 (DuPuis, Griess&Klein, 2019). Bird was the first to mass-deploy scooters in cities. In 2017, they surprised both the public and the authorities by dumping hundreds of scooters on municipal sidewalks overnight in Santa Monica. Bird and Lime promote their gadgets as eco-friendly alternatives to autos, stating that they are ideal for short travels inside cities. But the corporations have also expanded quickly, often without authorities' consent. However, it is unclear how closely the corporations engage with cities to ensure these new streetscape additions aren't too nettlesome. Some people love this new idea and use it responsibly, while others hate it and throw the scooters into the lakes. No one knows why so many of these scooters end up in lakes and rivers, but one possibility is that some individuals find them enraging, irritating enough to throw them in.


These have not stopped scooter makers: With hundreds of millions in venture capital investment, Bird and Lime are expected to continue spreading throughout the globe. Many more businesses adopted this approach as well. And now micro mobility has become a very strong option for us as a means of transportation. This journey which began with anarchists has now been taken over by a multimillion dollar industry and the bikes and scooters you see on every street corner.

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