Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Micromobility is knocking

Florida Weekly 'Outdoors' column, June 5, 2019

E-bikes like this one on display at Tour de Cape are becoming more common.
Getting around in ways other than in a car has become quite common, especially in many urban areas around our country. The advent of bikeshare programs a few decades ago — primarily in our larger cities — meant a significant increase in people using bikes for short and medium distance trips where driving and parking is difficult and costly. But with this rapid increase came concerns about safety and public space use. As those issues were being addressed electric-powered micromobility devices entered the picture in the forms of e-bikes and stand-up e-scooters. As was the case with the original bike-share programs, safety and public space concerns caught many local governments by surprise. Entrepreneurs haven’t waited around for regulators to get a handle on those and other issues created by their businesses and those problems remain in most places where fledgling or even robust micromobility programs exists.

Add to the mix e-scooter and e-bike users operating at higher than appropriate speeds and it’s the lowly pedestrian who faces the most risk, although for inexperienced micromobility device users both sidewalks and roads can be fraught with hazards for them as well.

Cities and universities that rank highest on League of American Bicyclists’ Bicycle Friendly Community/University lists worked for many years and even decades to get to that level in terms of developing policies, priorities and infrastructure to accommodate a much higher percentage of bicycle use than average communities. Places like Denver, Portland, Ore., and Davis, Calif., still wrestle with too much of a good thing, although it’s clearly positive overall. Where e-bikes and e-scooters have been thrust into communities and college campuses in large numbers that aren’t adequately prepared for a boom in even traditional, human-powered bicycles it’s going to be interesting to see how officials and the general public deal with the inevitable changes that come with it.

A recent report published by National League of Cities “Micromobility in Cities, a History and Policy Overview,” does an excellent job of framing the benefits, negatives and challenges related to this matter. While our city centers in Southwest Florida don’t yet experience the gridlock and parking problems of larger cities (our traffic problems are generally sprawl-related and primarily on major roads, bridges and I-75 interchanges) many of the good, bad and unknowns still apply. For example, getting cars off the roads is always a plus as it reduces delay among those who do drive and may even remove the need to expand roads, a benefit to all taxpayers. However, reallocating space in the public rights-of-way is usually a necessary step once micromobility use reaches a critical level, meaning existing modes — driving and/or walking — may be compromised in order for that to occur.

An important aspect of this phenomenon not to be underestimated is the profit motive of the micromobility businesses either seeking to expand into an area. In a number of cities, rather than asking permission they seek forgiveness after setting-up shop without first gaining official approval, often times creating chaos or at least unanticipated expenses to local governments and taxpayers. As with many other aspects of today’s world, there’s so much change happening so fast that governments are always well behind the curve in getting a handle on both intended and unintended consequences. But since one of government’s primary purposes is to ensure the safety of its citizens as much as possible, regulating micromobility and the various devices — whether as part of a shared system or private ownership and use — is vital. At this point, at least from what I’ve learned, most governments that are dealing with this are still chasing their tails. Here in Southwest Florida there’s been little thought given to an onslaught of micromobility, thus few, if any, regulations are in place. Sanibel is perhaps the exception. Even with the few e-bikes that are among the transportation mix here, I’ve seen many zipping along at high speeds on sidewalks, something that’s illegal but overlooked by law enforcers, meaning yet another hazard pedestrians must deal with.
As always, to learn about these topics and more visit ¦

- Dan Moser is a long-time bicycle/pedestrian advocate and traffic safety professional who cycles, runs and walks regularly for transportation, recreation and fitness. Contact him at and 334-6417. 

For Lee County cycling and tri events visit Caloosa Riders Bicycle Club (; Florida Mudcutters (; and SW Florida Biking Meetup Group ( The Florida Bicycle Association ( is your source for statewide happenings. BikeWalkLee’s blog site has all the information you’ll need to stay abreast of advocacy efforts in Southwest Florida as well as statewide and nationally.

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