From Paris to Mexico City, sidewalks of the world have been populated with micro-mobility vehicles designed to decongest urban landscapes while providing an environmentally-friendly alternative mode of transportation for rides under five miles. Though the concept of micro-mobility is new for many, the trend actually began in 1975 with a community bicycle program by innovator and industrial designer Luud Schimmelpennik in Amsterdam. Since then, the micro-mobility landscape has evolved drastically, notably due to progress in e-motor technology and shifting urban environments. However, it is mobile application technology coupled with seamless user interface and experience design that has allowed today’s micro-mobility services to resonate with consumers almost immediately.
Through mobility apps such as Uber and Lyft, riders became versed in the geolocation technology that offered frictionless access to rides anywhere and everywhere. Before the first electric kick scooters were gliding around sidewalks, the future micro-mobility riders of the world were subconsciously learning the UI and UX that would serve as a catalyst for the contemporary micro-mobility revolution. The general understanding of this technology and design reduced the barriers of entry for micro-mobility and made its adoption for its customers seamless.
Though contemporary micro-mobility has proven itself as a sustainable alternative ride experience, there are still many obstacles on the road to mass adoption. Safety in particular has stood out as the biggest hurdle, as many hospitals and ER rooms have reported an increasing amount of e-scooter related injuries. Though rider negligence such as multiple riders on one scooter and phone usage while driving have been leading causes for injuries, there is also something to be said for the rapid growth of contemporary micro-mobility vehicles. Many cities went from docked, human-powered bicycles to dock-less electric kick scooters and eventually motor scooters in a short period of time. As with many consumer electronics products—once we got a taste, we immediately wanted more. If bike shares are the gateway drug of micro-mobility, the progression of wanting more control, more speed, more power has certainly played a role in creating safety concerns.
However, the same way that design served as the catalyst for the micro-mobility revolution, it can also serve as a solution to the system’s current issues in a multitude of ways. Industrial designers can create safer and smarter vehicles that are specifically designed for congested urban areas. Interaction and experience designers can create services and applications that enable coordination and communication between micro-mobility vehicles and traditional road vehicles. And eventually, urban planners and architects can design streets and sidewalks that accommodate these new modes of transportation and clearly define the boundaries of where designated vehicles are designed to go. Companies in the micro-mobility space need to look to design solutions to ensure safer commuting routes and faster, more seamless riding experiences.