Electric scooters – urban litter or sustainable mobility?

Reflections from SXSW 2019

Micro-mobility is a hot topic at SXSW 2019, and hippie-like Austin is the perfect playground. The electric scooters for rent are plentiful, fast and fun as they smoothly pass cars and busses in traffic-jammed downtown streets. Safety issues aside (no helmets in sight and accidents are happening regularly), they are undoubtedly a new sight. But why do they last for such a short time? And why are they scattered around like litter?

An extremely short life cycle

Many different scooter brands are fighting for your attention (Bird, Lime, Jump, Lyft, etc.), so you never run out of options. If only they were parked in designated areas. But the scooters are left everywhere, in the bushes, in the middle of the sidewalk, they're blocking entrances and polluting the city landscape. I can’t help thinking about their short lifespan. Someone mentioned 3 months, which is unacceptable sustainability-wise. Unless this is solved, I find it hard to consider them a sustainable option for urban mobility.

A fast and practical alternative...

Both loved and hated, I decided to test one for myself. The scooter from Lime was conveniently parked right outside my Airbnb flat. The app registration and mobile payment solution was easy enough, and after a nerve-wrecking fast trip, at a top speed of 16 mph or 25 km/h from the suburban South Congress to the busy downtown streets, I was asked to document my parking with a photo (why?). I’m was a well-behaved citizen and parked it according to the instructions, although, I’m not sure it really mattered.

The electric scooters are fast, easy to use and convenient. But there seems to be no control over how they're used and where they're parked. There also appears to be little concern with safety for us users, such as the use of helmets.

...but in a dire need of regulations

The electric scooters will arrive shortly in many cities. Will they be a success in the streets back home? Probably. However, I would welcome some sensible regulations. If the service providers chose to not only care about profit, but also about people's safety and city environment, if they partner up with local authorities to create cycle lanes and enough parking areas, and if they share their user data to improve urban planning – then, hell yes! We'll then get an easy and convenient way to get from A to B. (But please - wear helmets everyone!)

How to create good micro-mobility solutions

For those who are interested in entering the emerging micro-mobility bonanza I have three pieces of advice:

1. Learn from our client Circle K and others who’ve just entered the Electric Vehicle scene. Many of the growing pains in EV infrastructure and the pain points EV owners are dealing with, such as charging capacity and range anxiety (fear that the vehicle has insufficient battery to reach its destination), are being solved as we speak. Here’s a lot of insight that might come in handy.

2. Partner up with someone even smarter than yourself. Succeeding in mobility (micro, electric or others) requires dealing with really complex systems. You need lots of insight, both quantitative and qualitative. Hard analytics must be supported by soft emotions. Only then can you create an authentic strategy that will stand a chance against the competition.

3. Be humble, curious and empathetic in your process.By adding humility, curiosity, and empathy to technological innovation I believe we can build the brands we´ve always wanted, and products and services that will be engaging, trusted and loved. Very soon, there will be an article on that very topic.

Stay tuned!

Sounds interesting?

Trine Harnes

Have a chat with our Regional Director Oslo
Trine Harnes
+47 911 10 938

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