VOI has recently entrusted 6t with a year-long European-wide research program on micromobility. The guiding principle of this research program is inclusiveness. Indeed, since the development of micromobility services all around the world, their contribution to urban mobility ecosystems has been recognised. However, a key concern remains: that of social equity and inclusiveness, given that research has shown that upper-class working men are over-represented among micromobility services users.
In this context, VOI asked 6t to explore the different ways micromobility can contribute to mobility inclusiveness. So far, VOI is the first operator to launch an ambitious research project, leading to the definition of an operational roadmap toward inclusive micromobility.
6t first conducted a literature review of academic articles and technical reports, in order to:
- Properly define key concepts;
- Discuss the current state of inclusiveness in micromobility, and in shared mobility in general;
- Review which actions have already been implemented by operators to ensure inclusiveness;
- Identify the operational steps that should be taken to address the current lack of inclusiveness.
What does it mean for a micromobility service to be ‘equitable’ or ‘inclusive’?
The question of inclusiveness, equity and justice in mobility is a complex multidimensional one. Three key approaches can be distinguished in the way past research has conceptualised it.
First, approaches focused on accessibility, with the idea that equitable transport planning should allow all citizens to benefit from the same level of access to opportunities, whatever their living area or sociodemographic profile. For micromobility operators, that implies a careful management of dockless fleets to make sure disadvantaged neighbourhoods are not under-served.
A second set of approaches focused on capabilities, a concept that refers to individual’s capacity to convert available resources (e.g., a mobility service) into opportunities (e.g., access to jobs). Therefore, it is not sufficient for an e-scooter to be sitting in front of someone’s door for that person to use it.
Finally, research focused on mobility justice. This third approach is the most ambitious of all and imply that, for a mobility service to be truly just, disadvantaged citizens should be involved in its design and performance monitoring. Then, operators should engage civil society and grassroots communities at the definition, deployment and evaluation phases.
What is the current state of inclusiveness in micromobility?
Available evidence on shared mobility user profiles reveals that they are in line with the “early adopter” profile: they tend to be wealthy, highly-educated, full-time working men living in urban areas. However, their age differs from one service to the other: carsharing users vary little from the general population, while dockless bicycle and e-scooter service users tend to be much younger.
Yet, there are still many efforts to make to answer the needs of women and low-income users, strongly under-represented among e-scooter users. Disabled people are also very strongly under-represented among micromobility services users and, not only do they face many difficulties as potential users, but, as non-users, they are more negatively affected by externalities associated with shared micromobility devices (e.g., improperly parked vehicles resulting in street clutter). The priority for operators is then to better understand barriers, and co-construct answers to these barriers with under-represented users.
How can micromobility inclusiveness be achieved?
Having clarified what it means to achieve micromobility inclusiveness, and analysed key data to characterise the current situation, we moved on to exploring the measures to address it. A benchmark of all measures taken by micromobility operators allowed to distinguish three progressive steps towards inclusive micromobility.
- Step 1 – Access to all, including spatial equity in fleet management and social pricing
- Step 2 – Tailored service, which involves the use of qualitative methods to understand the specific needs of under-represented users’ groups, and the adaptation of commercial offers to answer these needs
- Step 3 – Meaningful involvement, with partnerships established with charities or grassroots associations, to design but also to monitor the service