Cities explore potential benefits of micromobility
DENVER — On Earth Day, Denver city officials commenced a $9 million program which offered residents rebates for purchasing e-bikes. Less than three weeks later, on May 11, the program crossed an improbable threshold.
“The funding has been exhausted already,” Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said this week at the ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit. The city received 3,250 applications in 20 days.
At first glance, e-bikes were perhaps a curious topic at a technology showcase centered on moving transformational energy technology from laboratories into the market. But Hancock provided a reminder that not all efforts to reduce fossil-fuel emissions and reach climate goals need an advanced-technology solution.
Whether Denver’s appetite for e-bikes can be explained by the city’s 300-plus days of sunshine in addition to climbing gasoline prices, it is an example at a time when cities worldwide are wondering how to incorporate micromobility into their planning.
This week, Boston Consulting Group issued a report, “Putting Micromobility at the Center of Urban Mobility,” which examines exactly that subject. People began to see the likes of e-bikes and e-scooters as a viable transportation option during the pandemic, the report says, and especially now amid rising fuel costs, micromobility has emerged as an affordable alternative to both privately owned vehicles and public transportation, which often decreases travel time.
Bad weather can inhibit micromobility use — weather emerged as the chief impediment for consumers in all 10 countries surveyed by BCG. And not all e-micromobility reduces emissions — in cases where it replaces walking, it can increase them.
But there are overall benefits, and they arrive at a time when consumers are willing to rethink their transportation choices because of both gasoline prices and their own efforts to be more sustainable.
“We are removing barriers for [consumers] ready to make that switch,” Grace Rink, Denver’s chief climate officer, said.
The biggest remaining barrier, at least in the Mile High City, might be satisfying voracious demand.
— Pete Bigelow