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Urban Mobility, Not Mass Transit

To achieve social distancing required to combat the coronavirus, municipalities worldwide have increased exponentially their investment in micromobility and adapting roadways for cyclists.

Paris mayor, Anne Hidalgo, has made plain her goal to reduce cars in the city, and making the city more bike-friendly is a top priority. As a result of 20m Euros investment since the coronavirus hit the French capital, cycling is up 27% over the same time last year.

In Italy’s largest city Milan, driver protests thwarted previous efforts to create more bike lanes. Now the main shopping street clocks 7,000 cyclists rather than 1,000 pre-pandemic.  In a reversal, the city created 35 km of new cycle paths to accommodate the uptick.

The Rise in e-Bikes and Other New Models

Even in the Netherlands, already known for its cycling infrastructure including 767km of existing cycle lanes, the coronavirus effects trends.  Opting to forgo public transport and cars, the Dutch have latched onto e-bikes, which now sell more than traditional bikes.  At the same time an increase of 53% in cargo bike sales seems to point to a dual surge there.

The demand for the e-bikes is on such a rise that RTE Bikes, a Portuguese micro-mobility company, sells around 1000 to 2000 bikes per day.

With the noticeable shift in consumer transportation preferences, various MaaS companies are seizing the opportunity.  Polaris and Zero are working on electric off-road vehicles and snowmobiles, while Segway is launching an electric moped.

According to BBC reports, the spike in micro-mobility shown in e-bike sales and bike sharing, and new LEV development is a global phenomenon of the pandemic’s impact on urban transport.

Easier Navigating the City

In the coronavirus era people are making more short trips. Moreover, congestion on roads is comparatively less thanks to work-from-home schemes. Through e-bike networks, people can more easily commute safely to their workplace or shopping areas.

Businesses have caught onto to the e-bike advantage, too. A collaboration between Sao Paolo delivery app, iFood, and Tembici, a micro-mobility company, provides the iFood couriers access to Tembici e-bikes and a place to rest between deliveries.  The team-up increases efficiency and quality of life at work for both.

In keeping with efforts to ensure voter safety and mobility during the US November election, NABSA (the North American Bike Share Association) is working with various micro-mobility companies to provide traveling options for US voters, includin plans to provide free or discounted rides to the polls.

Will the Craze for Cycling and LEV’s Endure?

According to a Consumer Mobility Report survey by Motional, commuter travel habits have been undeniably affected by the pandemic: 60% of daily commuters report changing their methods in order to follow social distancing norms. Proving the point, 70% say their transportation preferences are motivated by the risk of infection.

However, after the coronavirus subsides, will city dwellers still want to forego mass transit?  To maintain the micro-mobility trend, improvements such as vehicle supply, service, road planning, and accessibility, will need to become permanent staples in urban design, policy, and practice.  Only with the support of local, regional, and national collaborations of public and private concerns will the investment work long term.

The good news is that most cycling converts report what the Dutch already knew pre-pandemic, if, given the opportunity, they like to bike.

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