Shared Micromobility is an Essential Tool for Creating Environmentally Sustainable Transportation Networks

Across North America, transportation is cited as one of the most significant contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. It is responsible for 29% of the emissions in the US, a quarter of the emissions in Canada, and  31% of Mexico’s emissions. In addition, the World Resources Institute identified transport as one of the most significant contributors to emissions globally. As the climate crisis reaches a historic peak, policy-makers and decision-makers are realizing something that NABSA and the industry have always known – shared micromobility is a climate action tool that can replace short car trips and connect people to transit, lowering transportation-related emissions. Our Shared Micromobility State of the Industry Report found that approximately 36% of the total shared micromobility trips taken in North America replace car trips, contributing to an offset of approximately 29 million pounds of emissions in 2020 and 65 million pounds in 2019. Fifty percent of riders in 2020 reported using shared micromobility to connect to transit.

Users and operators of shared micromobility are paving the way towards more sustainable transportation and, ultimately, communities. For example, since launching in 2018, users of Lincoln, Nebraska’s BikeLNK have taken more than 140,000 trips, resulting in more than an estimated 300,000 pounds of emissions offset. In addition, a survey of riders indicated that nearly a quarter of the rides replaced a car trip.

“Over the four years of our program, we’ve seen a positive shift in our local community’s interest in incorporating shared micromobility options into their daily routines and commutes,” said Logan Spackman, city manager at BikeLNK. “Lincoln as a city is committed to several long-term sustainability goals, and BikeLNK has become one of the public faces of that commitment toward a more environmentally conscious community. It’s been special to watch users and community members embrace BikeLNK as a way to get where they need to go while also reducing their carbon footprint.”

Now, more than ever, mode shift is vital as recent evidence shows that city residents worldwide need to choose modes like walking, biking, and transit for at least 40% of the miles they travel by 2030 to prevent the worst effects of climate change. Increased availability of shared micromobility and safe street infrastructure for riders is essential for shifting away from single-occupancy vehicle trips and toward active and multi-modal transportation. In 2020, Chicago piloted 10,000 e-scooters and included nearly the entire city in the coverage area. According to Sean Wiedel, the Chicago Department of Transportation’s (CDOT) assistant commissioner of its Citywide Services Division, riders reported that 43% of e-scooter trips in 2019 and 30% in 2020 replaced a vehicle trip during the pilot period.

“The addition of e-scooters to Chicago’s transportation ecosystem, combined with the City’s Divvy bikeshare program, offers another easy way for residents and visitors to choose active transportation to get around Chicago,” said Sean Wiedel. “As transportation costs go up, it is critical that we support micromobility solutions that provide affordable ways to travel in Chicago without needing a car.”

Shift Transit is a shared micromobility operator managing over 25,000 mobility assets, including bikesharing programs in Toronto, Detroit, Chattanooga, and Tucson. In 2021 alone, the trips taken in these cities helped to offset close to 8 million pounds of emissions. “We see an increased demand for customers turning to shared micromobility to run errands, connect to other forms of transit and supplement commutes on certain days of the week,” says Heili Toome, chief marketing officer at Shift Transit. “With Bike Share Toronto as an example, the adoption of bikeshare is on a strong growth trajectory; 2021 saw more than a 30% increase in membership subscriptions and a 23% increase in ridership versus the previous year.”

Shared micromobility is at an important moment in which policy-makers and decision-makers at all levels can choose to invest and scale shared micromobility into a powerful tool for creating multimodal transportation networks and lowering car dependency. Some cities are already taking steps toward building inclusive multimodal transportation networks to implement this. For example, Pittsburgh’s Move PGH ​​connects different mobility services, including shared micromobility and public transportation, that can be booked and paid for through a single digital platform. The Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada (RTC) collaborated with BCycle and Bicycle Transit Systems to fully integrate both modes within the Transit app and MoGo Detroit is working with the Detroit Department of Transportation and SMART to integrate its bikeshare system with transit. These multimodal initiatives are charting an important way forward for the environmental sustainability of transportation, and we need more of them to achieve our climate goals.

Shared micromobility’s contribution to environmental sustainability is also not limited to the services provided but also includes evolving operational practices that reduce the carbon footprint of operations. In a recent blog post, NABSA discussed some of these practices, such as Biketown, Blue Bikes NOLA, and Spin’s use of e-cargo bikes instead of vans for some of their rebalancing and battery swapping trips, WE-cycle’s pilot for the first operational solar-powered e-bikeshare stations in the US, and BCycle’s participation in the bike industry’s battery recycling program.

Investment is also needed in shared micromobility charging infrastructure to scale the environmental benefits of shared micromobility. The “Electric Vehicle (EV)” conversation must include electric bikes and scooters as well as cars and heavy-duty vehicles. EV policies need to be developed with shared micromobility in mind. For example, investment in charging infrastructure for shared micromobility should be included as electric vehicle charging programs created by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law in the US, such as the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) Program and Carbon Reduction Program, and Canada’s 2030 Emissions Reduction Plan are implemented.

Finally, as we encourage mode choice toward shared micromobility, biking, and walking, we must ensure that safe street infrastructure exists to support it. When people feel safe doing so, they are more likely to choose non-car options for certain trips resulting in fewer vehicle miles and emissions. Research has found that installing bike lanes, especially protected bike lanes, leads to fewer fatalities and better road-safety outcomes for cyclists, pedestrians, and motorists. Implementing Complete Streets and creating connected networks of dedicated spaces for biking, scooting, rolling, and walking will grow the number of trips made with these modes. The Infrastructure Investment and Job Act (IIJA) in the US created record levels of funding to build these projects. Canada’s new Active Transportation Fund is also a new federal source of funding that can support the development of safe street infrastructure.

As we’ve seen, shared micromobility can help communities meet their climate, congestion, and sustainability goals by facilitating connections to transit, replacing vehicle trips, and shifting our car-centric transportation paradigm to one that is multimodal. This shift is essential to reduce transportation’s carbon footprint and mitigate the impacts of climate change. In this way, implementing shared micromobility is an important and powerful tool for climate action.

Learn more about NABSA’s advocacy work here.