US Study Shows Micromobility Eases Congestion

Across the United States, in particular, the number of e-vehicles has been quickly emerging as new alternatives to getting around. E-scooter and e-bikes have helped commuters and tourists commute and explore, but going with that comes public annoyance amid safety concerns, with some cities even banning or restricting rental times.

A recent study published in the scientific journal Nature Energy by researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology makes an interesting finding. They show that by restricting the usage of e-scooter and e-bikes, users will revert back to old habits and actually cause more annoyances.

They state: “Decisions that shape our cities can lead to unexpected effects. We have established that when scooters and e-bikes are banned, drivers experience statistically significant increases in traffic congestion as many riders revert back to passenger vehicles for last-mile transit.”

Data from Atlanta City’s center from 9 p.m. to 4 p.m. in 2019 was analysed following a ban of e-scooter and e-bike rentals. As a result of the increased congestion, the study found that Atlanta’s average commuting time in the city center and surrounding areas jumped from 9% to 11%.

The findings will give administrators a headache to overcome as the more constituents are familiarised with the use of micromobility options and how they can actually improve commuting times, and not to mention negating the pollution output, they will need to consider revising their restrictions.

To accelerate the adoption of micromobility and achieve its associated sustainability benefits, we argue that cities will need to make additional investments in both physical and digital infrastructure. For physical infrastructure, land use and space allocation will require longer-term planning such as converting lanes usually reserved for cars into bike lanes that can be used for micromobility,” the report says.

The study from the Georgia team is the “first of its kind that has analyized the effects of an e-scooter and e-bike ban in a real world setting” according to Omar Asensio, the report’s co-author.

If further micromobility adoption happens at the expense of ‘pollutingʼ modes like private vehicles or other car-based travel, then these investments become even more critical for urban sustainability and will carry larger policy implications,” the report says. “With its potential to displace cars for personal travel and drive short-run emissions reductions, micromobility is poised to continue its strong growth as an urban mobility solution.”

These findings reflect what other studies have shown in Seattle and Beijing, for example, which suggest that micromobility rides can replace up to 18% of short car trips in congested areas, or reduce traffic around subway stations by up to 4%.

Previous suggestions that congestion can be eased may have previously all been theories. But now it’s being researched by teams like the Georgia Institute of Technology, the facts are being put out there. It’s an exciting time for the industry as a whole, even though rules and regulations may prove a hurdle.