Mobility 2050/Tech's Place in Micromobility

Introduction

The year 2050 seems like a far off future, but without thought and consideration as to how we should envision this future we are fulfilling the infamous quote by Benjamin Franklin which says, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”  With no direction we will wander aimlessly into the year 2050 with the same problems surrounding transportation and they will have surely worsened. Our vision is the map to unlocking a more sustainable future which relies on micro mobility as a primary source of transportation. Using high-sōsh mobility systems in combination with high-tech micro mobility devices will lay the foundation for restructuring the US to be more environmentally friendly.


What is Micro Mobility?

Micro mobility is the use of small and lightweight means of transportation as primary transportation. It offers a more eco-friendly alternative compared to traditional transportation methods. Some examples include electric and non-electric bicycles, scooters, and skateboards. These forms of transportation are great alternatives because they help with decreasing traffic, limiting pollution, and promoting a healthier lifestyle, and are convenient for short-distance travel. As cities progress, micro mobility is becoming a crucial aspect of creating more convenient and friendly urban environments.

Micro Mobility solutions offer great sustainable benefits. By the utilization of manual or electric modes of transport, we can shift away from fossil-fuel dependent vehicles, notably gas cars, leading to a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. The adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) will not only support environmental efficiency, but will also aid in minimizing noise pollution. This is crucial in urban areas where it will aid in preserving wildlife and ecosystems. Furthermore, the widespread use of these alternate transportation modes can substantially alleviate traffic congestion, especially in major cities like Los Angeles or New York City. This will actively promote alternatives to reduce traffic congestion and also result in shorter travel times. This dual impact will enhance the efficiency of transportation and also contribute to lower fuel consumption, fostering the creation of more livable and environmentally friendly urban spaces.

In examining the feasibility of micro mobile modes of transportation, particularly in the context of of the United States, there are some significant challenges with the current infrastructure. Many college campuses across the states are walkable, which contributes to a secure environment that encourages active engagement and facilitates meaningful interactions among students and faculty(Transloc, 2021)[1]. For example, at the University of Virginia, the majority of locations are easily accessible by foot, with micro mobile transportation options like cycling, electric scooters, and on-campus buses serving as convenient alternatives for closer destinations. However, this pedestrian-friendly atmosphere greatly contrasts with the fact that in most states in the U.S, the streets aren’t as walkable as a College Town would be. Only 34% of Americans primarily walk to their destinations, and this is because there's an issue with pedestrian safety. The U.S experiences a higher rate of pedestrian fatalities than any other country (Benfield, n.d.)[2]. In order to address this issue, there needs to be an infrastructure reconstruction. By prioritizing the development of well-designed sidewalks and crosswalks, urban areas can better accommodate micro mobile solutions, making them more accessible and safer for pedestrians. Additionally, integrating underpasses in bridges can serve as a crucial measure to provide secure crossings, minimizing the inherent risks associated with traversing busy roads.

We aspire to mirror smart cities, and by 2035, there will be a great opportunity for micro mobility to further advance urban transportation, contributing to a sustainable and efficient future.


Technological Innovations

As previously stated, popular examples of tech in micro mobility include electric scooters and bikes. These are all examples of how low tech via the addition of a battery allows people to travel longer distances and emit less carbon into the atmosphere than a car would. We expect that more pathways, docking stations, and possibly parking garages will be available for electric bicycles and scooters in the year 2050 since there will be more riders. The Netherlands are a fine example of how people heavily rely on bikes as a form of transportation; Dutch citizens demonstrate how their society cares about this form of micro mobility because there are over 300 locations near metro stations and bus stops housing OV bicycles for people to rent. This system integrates the use of public transport like the metro and bus system alongside bicycles to create a complex network that is independent of car usage. Incorporating this system in the US, would align with our commitment in the Paris Agreement to prevent global temperatures from exceeding 2 degrees Celsius and limiting carbon emissions (Nations, n.d.)[3]. A society which focuses on micro mobility options is one geared towards limiting carbon emissions since it steers away from current car usage which is one of the leading sources of emissions within the transportation sector.  

Further investigation of this system shows that roughly 27% of Dutch people choose to ride a bike as a form of transportation to and from work and home (de Haas & Hamersma, n.d.)[4]. In comparison, only 0.6% of Americans commute to work by bike (Burrows, 2019)[5]. This network is made possible because of OV chip cards which connect all public transportation. In order to rent a bike you need this card as well as a seasonal pass. Renting these e Bikes is affordable and only costs $4.95 for a day of travel (“Dutch Public Transport System,” 2023)[6]. Linking multiple modes of public transportation in the US with a card or app would be beneficial and the US could incentivize the use of micro mobility by giving cheaper rates to those who already use public transit. This incentivization strategy could look like using a flat fee instead of charging by the minute for micro mobility devices such as bikes and scooters.

Sidewalks which generate energy in conjunction with walking are a less common mode of micro mobility; these sidewalks work as “[p]ower is generated when a footprint compresses the board from a depth of 5 to 10 mm” (Souza, 2019)[7]. About 2 to 4 joules or 5 Watts of energy are generated with each step and this is enough energy to power a LED bulb for 30 seconds (Souza, 2019)[8]. We expect them to be found in more locations with heavy foot traffic such as universities and corporate facilities. Installing these sidewalks will help meet our sustainability goals since the cleaner form of energy generated will help to power these large facilities. We don’t believe that they will completely replace the current energy systems in these buildings, but their addition will decrease the amount of energy generated in non-green forms.


Challenges and Considerations

In an increasingly high-tech world, there will surely be several technological advancements, like those we mentioned, that make micro mobility modes work better. However, concerns about these advancements and the willingness to accept them must be considered before any concrete conclusions are made.

This past September, Paris issued a citywide ban on e-scooters after a referendum passed with 90% of voters in favor (Schofield, 2023)[9]. Also, the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (2023)[10] found that there was a 21% increase in injuries involving micro mobility devices between 2021 and 2022. These examples raise two important questions: Will more high-tech components necessarily make high-sōsh micro mobility devices work better and will there be more pushback to the increasing use of high-tech micro mobility devices? With our solutions, we had to step back and ask if they would be adopted with no questions asked before we made the assumption that they will. Many people will move in the direction of society and willingly accept more high-tech micro mobility modes, but for some people, stories of injuries and road disruptions will be enough to deter them. We believe that a vital component of our above solutions is to avoid artificially manufacturing consent for them so that they are naturally adopted by people.

Looking at the bigger picture, micro mobility devices and their high-tech components are all a part of a bigger system that includes all of us; pedestrians, drivers, cyclists, etc. In a TikTok posted by Angry Bikers (2023)[11], these different social groups can be seen interacting with one another. There is the cyclist who gets mad at the pedestrians for standing in the bike lane, the pedestrians who seem to not care when called out, and the driver who parked in the bike lane and laughed at the cyclist when confronted over his actions. These groups all interact with one another, but as one can see, there is a large disconnect between them. Although we are a part of the same system – our cities and streets – the level of cohesion is fairly low. This is vital to note because we can incorporate as many high-tech components and micro mobility devices into our cities as possible, but without working on improving the relationships within these systems, the high-tech will only serve as a tool and not a solution to anything.


Conclusion

We want to emphasize that high-tech on its own will not improve these high-sōsh micro mobility modes, and we need to consider several factors in order for the high-tech components to truly be of value. With that, technology has proven to be valuable in changing how our mobility systems and modes work. We presented our Vision 2050 of how high-tech components can make high-sōsh micro mobility modes work better. Further research can be done to explore how we can improve the systems that these modes (and us) exist in so that the high-tech really has a meaningful impact and is not just an unnecessary extension to whatever we have right now.


  1. "Better Campus Transportation Starts with Walkability". TransLoc. 2023-08-01. Retrieved 2023-12-08.
  2. "The Daunting Challenge of Unwalkable America | Smart Cities Dive". www.smartcitiesdive.com. Retrieved 2023-12-08.
  3. Nations, United. "The Paris Agreement". United Nations. Retrieved 2023-12-08.
  4. de Haas M. & Hamersma M. (n.d.). "Cycling facts: New insights" (PDF). Bicycle Network. Retrieved December 4, 2023.
  5. Bureau, US Census. "May 17 is National Bike to Work Day". Census.gov. Retrieved 2023-12-08.
  6. dev (2023-06-07). "Dutch Public Transport System: All You Need to Know | Jimble DSP". Jimble. Retrieved 2023-12-08.
  7. "Sidewalks That Generate Energy Through The Steps". ArchDaily. 2019-02-27. Retrieved 2023-12-08.
  8. "Sidewalks That Generate Energy Through The Steps". ArchDaily. 2019-02-27. Retrieved 2023-12-08.
  9. "Paris says au revoir to rental e-scooters" (in en-GB). 2023-09-01. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-66682673. 
  10. "E-Scooter and E-Bike Injuries Soar: 2022 Injuries Increased Nearly 21%". U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Retrieved 2023-12-08.
  11. "TikTok - Make Your Day". www.tiktok.com. Retrieved 2023-12-08.