August 30, 2021
Micromobility can revolutionize transportation–if we let it.
By Ignacio Tzoumas
We are facing a pivotal time in the history of America’s infrastructure. With the unveiling of President Biden’s proposed infrastructure investment program, and additional proposals from other members of the Congress, we have begun a debate not only about how we can improve our nation’s infrastructure, but also about what infrastructure is, what it can look like, what it can mean, and what it can do for our communities and our country. This moment represents an extraordinary opportunity – but if we are to achieve its promise, we must make micromobility a central part of the conversation, and harness its power for the good of all.
Micromobility involves small, lightweight vehicles that travel fewer than five miles at a time and operate at speeds below 25 miles an hour – vehicles like bicycles, e-bikes, and electric scooters. These mobility options can help improve access to critical areas like jobs, housing, and food. They can promote equity for underserved populations by offering transportation options for people who are traditionally left out. They can improve quality of life in urban centers around the country by reducing pollution, mitigating congestion, shortening commutes, and offering people the ability to use their time in the way that they please.
These are game-changing opportunities – and in many places, the revolution has already begun, with e-scooters and bikeshare programs changing the way people move and interact. But if we are going to unleash the full potential of this transformation in transportation infrastructure, we need to be intentional about how we build it together. That will require keeping in mind three critical elements: physical infrastructure, connectivity infrastructure, and partnerships.
Physical infrastructure is simple to understand. We need fleets of electric bikes, scooters, e-shuttles, and other micromobility options in urban areas to make sure that we can reach the people who need them. We need road elements like micromobility lanes in city streets, providing a place for bikes, e-bikes, scooters, and other transportation options to flow together. And we need charging stations and power banks for swappable batteries that are as ubiquitous as gas stations, establishing a physical network for these options to traverse. Not only could power banks make the electrical system more robust; they also provide power for future development and promote energy independence.
But physical infrastructure is only the beginning. What will help us bring these options to the next level is connectivity; a network capable of moving data to and from devices. This kind of infrastructure – a link to the Internet of Things – provides information about the flow of movement across the city, helping urban planners make decisions about infrastructure and community development, and promoting efficiency and user well-being. Importantly, these networks protect user privacy, because while they can communicate where a scooter goes, they do not transmit information about any one user. Information is completely anonymized to ensure privacy, even as it provides critical knowledge that helps to optimize the flow of traffic and ensure safety.
Finally, this infrastructure network requires partnerships. That means developing connections between technology providers and the cities, towns, universities, and local owners that use their products. One of the benefits of micromobility options is that they are small enough to be customizable to each locality – and the best way to customize them is to work with the city administrators, town planners and municipal officials who know the area best. These partnerships can ensure that micromobility options are placed in the areas where they are needed most; that they are connected to the related infrastructure that they need to thrive; and they can succeed over the long term as regulations and technologies mature.
Micromobility isn’t about replacing human elements of transportation. It is about connecting technology with people – joining bits with atoms – to create something new, resilient, and sustainable. But if we do not act now, we will miss the opportunity to build this infrastructure intentionally, and we will lose our chance to construct our own urban destiny.
We are at the onset of a great transformation – whether we choose to embrace it or not. If we recognize the power of micromobility, and make an active effort to unleash its potential, we can make extraordinary progress in the infrastructure of our nation. We can ensure that people in urban areas across the United States can find and keep jobs; can provide for themselves and their families; and can access the resources they need to survive and succeed. We can reduce the inequities that keep too many people from realizing the promise of this country, and that make it impossible for too many families to achieve the American dream. And we can foster a better quality of life for every person in this country, in a world that is cleaner, healthier, more prosperous, and more resilient.
A transportation transformation is coming. It is time for all of us to get on board – while we can.
Ignacio Tzoumas is Chief Executive Officer of BOLT Mobility, responsible for the company’s management, strategic growth, and commitment to sustainability, access, and community partnership. His focus on cost-effective, sustainable transportation for underserved communities has been a key catalyst of the company’s continued expansion.
About Bolt Mobility
BOLT Mobility is a transformational personal transportation company committed to ensuring access, equity, and quality of life through micromobility. Co-founded by eight-time Olympic Gold Medalist Usain Bolt, BOLT Mobility is revolutionizing the way people move and experience their communities and travel to and from employment. Through partnerships with municipalities, universities, and local ownership, we are advancing smarter infrastructure and thoughtfully integrating sustainable and accessible transportation options into the neighborhoods we serve, helping communities thrive. Learn more at MicroMobility.com.
Dan Kaplan, Laurel Strategies