New communication and electric vehicle technologies have enabled more affordable, accessible, and sustainable ways to travel in cities, including shared e-bikes and e-scooters. While these small shared vehicles actually save public space by replacing larger vehicles owned by single users, their recent introduction into the urban landscape is still being studied to ensure these vehicles are used and parked in a manner that doesn’t inconvenience other users of public space.
The Micromobility Coalition (TMC), founded by leading micromobility service providers, is specifically working to better understand the challenges faced by people with disabilities and ensure e-scooters and e-bikes share the road and support broad-based accessibility. Ensuring our streets are universally accessible is important and beneficial to everyone—especially people with disabilities—but also anyone with reduced mobility, including people with temporary injuries, seniors, or parents who need to navigate a city with an infant in a stroller. That’s why TMC is committed to ensuring micromobility vehicles do not make our cities more challenging for people with disabilities: we respect everyone’s accessibility needs and want to work to find common cause in making our cities and streets more safe and accessible for all.
Our member companies are engaged in efforts to improve equipment, processes, and deployment to meet the demands of consumers and the communities in which they operate. Employing urban planners, safety experts, and community advocates, e-bike and e-scooter companies are adapting practices that prioritize accessibility.
Jump, owned by Uber, requires e-scooter riders to take photos of how they park e-scooters on sidewalks to better enforce proper parking technique. Lime has launched a pilot program across multiple cities and at a university to add Braille to scooters to better understand how people who are blind or have low vision are encountering an e-scooters on the sidewalk. Further, under the umbrella of TMC, the companies are sharing best practices and learning from each other on the best ways to prioritize safety and access.
Another focus is improving response times to complaints filed against poorly parked e-scooters. Providers are exploring how to make this process move more quickly at the local level, while also considering ways to alert riders through their apps to improve behavior. Creative, yet simple ideas like a push notification asking if a parked e-scooter leaves enough room for someone using a stroller or wheelchair to pass by can help establish an environment of mutual safety and respect that will help improve the system for people of all abilities.
In this vein, there are three simple steps riders and non-riders can take to make sure e-scooters do not impede others:
- We encourage users to ride e-scooters in bike lanes and on multi-use paths.
- Park e-scooters the right way: upright and out of the way of passersby, and never blocking an entrance/exit or curb ramp. Make sure there is enough room for people to get around the parked e-scooter.
- Speak up if you see an issue. While a poorly parked e-scooter may not entirely limit your ability to get around it, it might for somebody else. If you are able, move the poorly parked e-scooter to a more secure area that others can navigate around.
City officials can also help to establish a safe environment for all commuters. In many cities, micromobility providers are already required to provide plans to increase accessibility and accommodate people with disabilities. But at the end of the day, many e-scooter obstructions are caused by a lack of existing infrastructure to support this new mode of mobility.
Shared e-scooter or e-bikes accommodate as many as eight different users per day in a major city. And 12 of these vehicles can fit in the same space as one parked car that only serves about six drives per day. When cities convert a single parking space to bike and scooter parking, they allow that space to serve up to 96 trips in a day — or 16 times as many people as a car. Cities should start enabling this highly efficient, new modes of transport through efforts like converting one spot of automobile parking per block for new micromobility. This ensures these vehicles aren’t on the sidewalks, serve more citizens, make better and more efficient use of public space, and help shift cities to more sustainable transportation behavior. Further, cities can better leverage their investment in transit infrastructure by improving bike and scooter access at transit stations.
Micromobility companies and accessibility advocates are working hard to improve access for all, and improved transportation options can and should benefit the disability community. It is important for all involved to work together in this ever-evolving landscape to protect the communities in which we all operate.
About The Micromobility Coalition
The Micromobility Coalition works to improve the quality of life across the United States by promoting access to personal transportation options that reduce traffic, create cleaner and quieter communities, and make it easier for people to safely get where they want to go. To learn more, visit www.micromobilitycoalition.org.