Micromobility in Cities: A History and Policy Overview

May 6, 2019

National League of Cities

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T he emergence of micromobility, along with shifts in preferences for alternative modes of transportation, and wholesale monumental changes impacting transportation over the last few decades, have pressed the National League of Cities (NLC) to ask several questions about how and why we design our cities. Cities need to consider the management of street and curb space, what a complete trip and street looks like, and who they are serving when designing thoroughfares.

With this white paper, NLC hopes to explore the rapidly changing and disruptive nature of micromobility, and provide city officials useful information to deploy micromobility options in a safe, profitable and equitable way. The report begins by defining micromobility and exploring the recent history of docked and dockless bikes and e- scooters. The authors then explore the challenges and opportunities facing cities and illustrate a few examples of cities that are addressing these issues head-on. The concluding section features a set of recommendations cities can consider as they work to regulate these new mobility technologies.
 
Seven recommendations are explored in depth within the report including:
  • Get out in front of surprise deployments.
  • Utilize pilot programs to consider right of way policy, cost structure, sustainability and opportunities to work with different companies.
  • Consider safety.
  • Develop a plan and agreement for trip data.
  • Reevaluate bike infrastructure.
  • Focus on equity.
  • Be proactive about learning from other cities.
Ultimately, these systems are an increasingly important part of city transit and mobility
systems, as they help people move around cities more seamlessly and efficiently. The
value is apparent and big questions, if they do arise, center around how these new
systems — which are typically run by private operators — interact with existing laws and regulations. The regulatory system in many cities surrounding these new modes is not yet settled. The model of entering a city first and asking forgiveness later is alive
and well, as companies seek to create new laws that allow them to operate unhindered. Many places have figured out the interplay between the operators and the regulators,
but there are still quite a few cities working through these questions.

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