What micromobility is missing

AT TC Sessions: Mobility, we heard from Tortoise co-founder and president Dmitry Shevelenko, Elemental Excelerator director of Innovation, Mobility, Danielle Harris and Superpedestrian VP of Strategy and Policy, Avra van der Zee about the next opportunities in micromobility.

“Thinking about how micromobility could expand, and the accessibility of it in terms of getting people on board, getting people to opportunities in terms of education and employment, I think there’s still a need to very much think outside of the box of what does this look like, exactly, as we evolve,” Harris said.

The discussion explored how a vast landscape of companies have emerged around micromobility but how there ultimately needs to be more infrastructure and continued steps taken toward enhancing the right of way for alternative modes of transportation.

“When I think about equity and access, I also like to think about it through the lens of designing a vehicle that isn’t just for an able-bodied 32-year-old white man,” van der Zee said. “[…] It’s excellent we are part of a transportation system but we want to build something safe enough to entice a range of users. So there’s questions about the inherent design.”

Those questions center around whether there’s a wide enough baseboard, whether it feels robust, how it feels riding on cobblestone and how you actually build an accessible vehicle, she said. But the biggest thing that is missing from micromobility systems is the further development of fully protected bike lanes.

“For me, that is sort of the linchpin for building out a safe system,” she said, noting how she would not let her kids ride a bike or scooter unless there was a protected bike lane.

“That I think is a problem the industry has yet to tackle…transporting not just yourself but you know, a friend or a kid,” van der Zee said.

Shevelenko noted the industry got a bit ahead of itself thanks to Bird and Lime. Their massive funding rounds led to this increased focus on a two-wheeled scooter form factor “that just happened to be what was available at the time,” Shevelenko said.

“What I’m particularly excited about is different vehicle architectures,” he said. “We’re working with OEMs building three-wheeled scooters, four-wheeled scooters. I think the more balance a vehicle has, the more naturally accessible it is, the easier it is to add things like seats. Thinking of the continuum all the way from an electric wheelchair to a two-wheeled scooter, there’s still a lot of room for products there.”

You can watch the full conversation here.