Mass Urbanization is Coming
More than 4.3 billion people - or 55% of the world’s population live in urban settings today, and that number is expected to rise to 80% by 2050. Rising urban populations make urban mobility – considered one of the most complex issues facing local municipalities and governments today – highly problematic.
So, what is urban mobility? Urban mobility is the ease and speed with which people, goods, and services can move around in urban areas.
Urban mobility challenges are forcing a shift in transportation styles. Several major cities around the world now have e-bike and scooter-sharing schemes, and the global micro-electric vehicle market is projected to grow from $9.57 billion in 2022 to $22.11 billion in 2029 as more people see these vehicles as a solution to transporting themselves, their children, and goods around town. With all these changes, let’s discuss the five major trends that are most likely to affect the future of urban mobility.
1. Urban Population Growth
Dense cities with taller buildings to accommodate more people are becoming a norm around the world. With car ownership remaining uncapped and inexpensive resident parking still widely available in many cities, congestion is rising to untenable levels, causing major parking and traffic problems.
2. Changing Urban Landscape
Municipalities are changing how cities are designed in response to more densely populated cities. In many cities, road space is being claimed to create cycle paths and wider sidewalks for pedestrians. Several city governments have announced ambitions to replace cars with bicycles. For example, Paris plans to become a "100 percent cyclable city" by 2026, Berlin aims to create a car-free area larger than Manhattan, and local authorities in the U.S. are investing heavily in improving facilities for cyclists. As municipalities make cities more friendly to cyclists, pedestrians, scooter riders, and families, car owners are being forced to seek alternative modes of transportation.
A new breed of cheap and reliable electric transportation – including electric scooters, e-bikes, mopeds, and even tricycles – is now available in many cities and urban spaces. The growing popularity of these vehicles represents a trend towards micro-mobility, whereby people are increasingly seeking out smaller, cheaper, electric modes of transportation for inner-city transport. The global micro-mobility market was valued at $40.19 billion in 2020 and is projected to reach $195.42 billion by 2030. Rising fuel prices and a fall in the price of lithium-ion batteries (down around 97% since 1991) are also driving this trend.
4. Climate Awareness, Environment, and Wellness
Greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) from transportation are the largest contributors to all GHG emissions in the U.S., accounting for 27% of total emissions. As awareness of environmental issues rises, many people are turning to electric cars, public transport, ridesharing, and even walking. Urban dwellers are increasingly purchasing micro-electric vehicles, like scooters and e-bikes, which offer both a practical means of transportation and a way to reduce their carbon footprint.
5. Covid-Related Behavioural Change
Ride-sharing services such as Uber were hailed as a way out of urban mobility challenges, but the fallout from the Covid pandemic has dampened their popularity. With heightened concern around hygiene and contamination, many people now avoid ridesharing or carpooling. From April through June 2020, gross bookings on Uber rides were down by 75%, while Lyft’s April 2020 ridership was down by 75% from April 2019.
Another Covid-driven behavioural change is the trend toward in-home deliveries and returns. To accommodate this changing behaviour, fleet operators will need more small vehicles –
such as motorcycles –instead of the larger vans and trucks they used to deploy.
Urban Mobility & Safety
An excess of car ownership in cities, lack of parking space, rising traffic and pollution, and the falling popularity of ride-sharing schemes is driving a mass movement toward micro-mobility options.
But there is an elephant in the room…safety!
2020 was the most lethal year for 2-wheeled drivers. 5,579 motorcyclists died in crashes in 2020 – the highest number recorded thus far and an 11% increase from 2019.
It’s a fact that those riding 2-wheeled and micro-vehicles are the most vulnerable on the road. While many safety solutions are on the market to warn car drivers of potential collisions, blind spot activity, or to jolt them to alertness if they stray from their lane or fall asleep, there are virtually no equivalent options for 2-wheeled and micro-vehicles. It makes no sense to ignore the safety needs of such a large and growing sector of riders.
Manufacturers, fleet operators, OEMs, vendors, and resellers need to prepare by providing effective safety solutions for the smaller vehicles they supply, manufacture, and use. As the micro-mobility movement grows, safety solutions that level the playing field between cars and two and three-wheeled vehicles must be introduced. It is critical to ensure that those riding micro-vehicles are as safe as their counterparts on four wheels.
Change takes time, and to meet future demands, the change must start now.
Written by Abi Solomon, VP of Marketing at RideVision