Increasing bike usage – opportunity or obstacle?
The increase in bike purchasing will help fill the space, as will the various government bike schemes; however this is unlikely to achieve the shift to active mobility at the scale needed to fill the gap at the pace required.
Moreover, with an influx of bike usage some pitfalls arise. For example, if we tripled bike usage in our major cities, where would we park the bikes? And how would office locker and shower facilities cope with extra numbers whilst maintaining social distancing? This is where shared micro-mobility could help. However, we’ll need some new ideas and to use the learning of other countries to accelerate shared alternatives, which could include e-bikes, e-scooters, cargo bikes, personal mobility scooters and even tuk-tuk e-taxis.
What can we learn from other countries?
Countries like Finland and cities like Antwerp have made it mandatory for any shared micro-mobility operator to offer their services through third party digital channels. This open ecosystem allows for micro-mobility services to be accessed as part of a door-to-door journey, thus encouraging the use of other modes such as rail. In fact, grassroots efforts in the UK by at least one train operating company could benefit from a top down nudge from government. This nudge could be in the form of encouraging micro-mobility operators to allow their services to be discovered, booked, and paid for in other smartphone applications, thereby supporting the Mobility-as-a-Service strategy of the government.
Looking across the English Channel, we see the French Government’s “Sustainable Mobility Package” which offers companies up to €400 per employee to encourage micro-mobility commuting. This is a scheme that the UK could build upon. One such idea currently circulating is to offer citizens a government funded micro-mobility allowance that could possibly be match-funded by employers, stimulating demand and filling the gaps on the roads. This stimulus could aid the introduction of micro-mobility services at the scale required to achieve mass adoption. The incentive could well prove popular with passengers arriving at stations who may prefer to social distance for their onward journeys or for those who simply don’t have space to store a bike of their own.