Dipping further into micromobility

I wrote a few days ago about rural cycling and micromobility and since then I’ve spent a bit of time reading and listening on the larger concept. Much of what I’ve come across thus far is focused on micromobility in the urban setting because that’s where it is most useful and where so many humans live.

Also, worth noting perhaps, is that my current primary source on the topic is Micromobility.io, the website and the podcast by Horace Dediu and Oliver Bruce. After perusing the site and listening to several podcast episodes this seems like an excellent resource on the topic though it does largely come from an interest in the business potential of micromobility which would be last on my list. His specific interest seems to be centered on the prospects of providing micromobility devices such as scooters and e-bikes as a ride-share platform such as Lime. I understand why Dediu takes the approach he does and it’s informative and very helpful and in a global economy with rampant capitalism it obviously has a place.

That said, I think coming at this from primarily a business interest sets it up with certain bias. In episode 41 of the podcast he specifically states at one point that he’s really only interested in micromobility devices as a service platform when he and co-host Oliver Bruce are discussing ownership as a utility product vs a rental services platform. At about 26:24 he states that “if the market is only utility I’m going to be out of it in a couple of years. Forget it. I’m done.” It’s possible I misunderstood that bit of the conversation but if correct I feel as though he’s going to be biased in his approach of the larger picture of the technology.

But really, I’m out of my depth in that I’m just a passerby who has stopped for a sip of water. Perhaps his is the best approach, a focus on micromobility as services built on apps with easy access is best. It certainly has a place in how people access the devices. But I tend to come at things from a concern for the planet and overall health. And certainly these concerns are addressed on both the podcast and the site, for example this post regarding micromobility and climate change.

In general I’m not a fan of capitalism and the idea that capitalism can or should or will be the primary force in solving the social ecological problems it has caused seems off. Surely it has a role to play and I’m not going to say that specific companies and services can’t have a positive role to play. It’s complicated. Our social and ecological problems are complicated. If there are companies that can make a profit via micromobility device sharing services which help address the problem of climate change then that’s certainly positive. But I see no reason to rule out an approach that allows for other forms of distribution and development of such devices.

Which brings me to another point. Along with the focus on micromobility as a service I’m also seeing a focus on urban environments. Again, maybe that makes sense from certain perspectives. But in doing just a bit of preliminary searching for rural micromobility I came across the Shared-Use mobility Center and in particular this article on Rural and Small Town Transportation:

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, a rural area is any area that is neither an urbanized area (50,000 or more people) nor an urban cluster (between 2,500 to 50,000 people). Currently, over 60 million (1 in 5) Americans live in such areas. Similarly, the term “small town” has a wide array of connotations, encompassing communities ranging from tiny village to sprawling suburb.

And so, I return to the topic of rural and even small town micromobility. I’ve just begun to scratch the surface of the content published by Dediu and others but what is to be done outside of cities? It may only be 20% in the US but certainly a solution is still needed. I’ve only really pondered my own small town and rural setting which, like many in the U.S. is relatively poor. Certainly many who are in this small town could be served fairly well by e-bikes. I’d guess that many in small towns smaller and larger than this might also find great utility in having access to one or two Ebikes equipped for shopping or other utilitarian purposes.

And as I’ve pointed out in numerous recent posts documenting my current use of an e-bike for riding to town there is also potential for some rural residents to make use of such assistive devices. My six to eight mile ride to town allows for me to do most of the things I need to do when I go to town. I don’t know what the numbers are for rural residents living in a similar radius but certainly small towns and their associated 5 to 8 mile radius of residents is worth including in the discussion of micromobility even if such areas are not prime profit markets?

As the the article on Micromobility and climate change states,, most of trips are short and that’s where most emissions are. I’d guess that the numbers vary when one get’s into the specific settings such as urban, suburban and rural ares but perhaps not by much. In any case, the problem of poverty and carbon emissions exist in rural and small town areas as well as urban and I’d suggest that while it won’t be the only solution certainly micromobility has a role to play here.

I’m probably a bit sloppy in my thinking here. Or, perhaps more accurate, I’m showing my newness to an area of analysis that’s been pretty well developed in a very specific direction. I’m looking forward to learning more from Horace Dediu and Oliver Bruce as well as the others writing and being interviewed. I’ll also be looking at the thoughts of others coming at it from other, less profit-driven perspectives.