The first mile/last mile problem refers to one issue that can plague even cities with the best public transportation systems. Not everybody can possibly live or work within easy walking distance of a transit station or bus stop. Thus, cities still suffer from traffic congestion, parking problems, and excessive auto emissions.

City planners know that they can’t always simply add more routes and stops because it would cost too much or result in other undesirable outcomes. At the same time, the first mile/last mile problem discourages many commuters from using mass transit at all. An integrated transportation system that includes public transportation and such flexible alternatives as micro-mobility vehicles can help fill in the gaps. Since using micro-mobility on a large scale still needs to mature a bit, city planners, micro-mobility companies, and the public need to work out the best and safest ways to implement these new solutions.

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Micro-mobility basics

Micro-mobility refers to personal vehicles that can carry one or two passengers. Bicycles are probably the most common example. Other micro-mobility vehicles include small electric cars, electric bicycles, all sorts of scooters – generally small powered micro-mobility vehicles run on charged batteries.

In many larger cities, commuters don’t always have to purchase their own micro-mobility vehicle. As the demand for alternative transportation has grown, quite a few companies have come up with vehicle-sharing schemes that let people “rent” their transportation with convenient, distributed, self-serve apps. Customers can use their mobile phones to locate a vehicle, unlock it, and pay the fee. In the evening, workers pick up the vehicles to charge for the next day and then return them to designated spots.

What needs to happen to make micro-mobility mainstream?

To understand some obstacles cities face when they want to offer more alternatives for commuters, it might help to consider the simple example of bikes. Why don’t more active adults ride bikes when they need to take short trips? For one thing, bikes don’t really belong on most sidewalks or streets, so they can become hazards for riders, drivers, and pedestrians in places without bicycle lanes or paths. Also, where do people leave bikes once they’ve arrived at their destination? Two solutions, bike-sharing services and more bike paths, have to stem from cooperation between city planners and companies.

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How micro-mobility vehicles can help and not hurt cities

Micro-mobility solutions can help fill in the gaps between public transportation for millions of commuters. In fact, they can even help make mass transit more attractive, so more people will choose it over driving their cars. In turn, this can reduce traffic congestion, parking issues, and other urban problems. The idea is still maturing, so cities have suffered some growing pains because of concerns over safety and in some cases, etiquette. Other cities may learn some lessons from the first pioneers of micro-mobility to get city officials to coordinate with micro-mobility companies and the public earlier in the planning phase.

Read the full article on the SkedGo website here.