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Micromobility on its way of becoming most popular means of transportation

Already in 2011 when the European Union made a roadmap for a competitive low-carbon Europe by 2050. Currently there is a long-term strategy aiming to be climate neutral by 2050 with net-zero greenhouse gas emissions. Such strategies affect almost every major industry - from the power sector to forestry, building and mobility. Transportation sector alone contributes more than one-fifth to the total greenhouse gas emissions. To lower them, governments and municipalities are actively supporting the introduction and implementation of electric transportation as well as micromobility with several methods - development of infrastructure, state aid programmes for purchase of electric cars, amendments of regulations, which differ from country to country and many more. Also the last few years have been exceptional for startups in the field of shared mobility and micromobility as the investors put their efforts together with innovative minds to take advantage of the changing world and introduce more efficient, environmentally friendly and attractive means of transportation within cities across the world.

Another factor that can be taken into account regarding the rapid growth of micro and e-mobility is its integration within the sharing economy. According to studies, the sharing economy made up about $15 billion globally in 2013, this number is expected to reach 1.5 trillion by 2024 of which a considerable amount counts for shared mobility. Nowadays more and more consumers within cities have started to use e-sharing and micromobility services considering it as the most convenient way of movement as the accessibility of shared e-mobility services has grown significantly. As the evolving interest from the consumers is also caused by the change in human behaviour and change in attitude towards the necessity of ownership. A person can easily rent any e-mobility vehicle, get to the right destination and park it in the allowed zone without need to worry about maintenance or cost of parking. The key factors for such rapid development and adoption of e-mobility vehicles among consumers are driven by two main reasons. Firstly, there are zero expenses for consumers to start using any of the services, because there is no need to purchase any vehicle or any significant starting costs. Secondly, for a lot of services, like electric scooters there is no need for a specific drivers licence Therefore the means of mobility are accessible for almost everyone.

It is important to remember that a significant part of shared e-mobility goes for micromobility as most of the shareable micro transport is electric. A few years ago micromobility services would be mostly regarded as shared bicycles across the cities but today the picture is different. As the demand for scooters, bikes, and mopeds continues to increase from year to year due to it being considered as a more convenient way of movement, today a person could find a shareable electric scooter on almost every corner of the city. Such a factor reduces the necessity for personal cars or a taxi ride for last mile trips and therefore the market continues to develop in favour of e-sharing services. Currently there are around 360 000 electric scooters intended for sharing available across Europe. This amount of available e-scooters has more than doubled in the last 3 years, which shows the fast adoption and increasing demand from consumers. At the same time even more car sharing services are choosing in favour of electricity powered car fleets making them even more accessible to people - today about 50% of car sharing companies in Europe offer electricity powered cars only and some even are developing their own charging networks.

Micromobility sharing services have enjoyed rapid growth in Latvia as well. During the last two years, many market players appeared offering the rent of e-transport allowing Riga citizens to quickly move around the city especially at rush hour. The first platforms that launched its services in Riga were ATOM and Fiqsy in 2019. In June of the same year Bolt announced that it is launching services in Riga as well. Scooter rental gained its popularity drastically between groups of all citizens - starting from teenagers to office people. Since that moment the industry has developed rapidly and new players have entered the market, such as Kong, Scoot991 and Jungo. Currently, there are a couple thousand electric scooters from different companies available on the streets of Latvia for use. Furthermore, companies like Ride and Skok started to offer throttle e-bikes and mopeds for rent that are also carbon neutral. Skok even offers training courses before customers start to use services to ensure that drivers will comply with road safety rules. Except for the above-mentioned means of transportation, car-sharing also contributes to decreasing the carbon emissions, as more and more people are making a decision not to buy a car as there are more than 570 sharing cars provided in Latvia (a part of those are fully electric) by Fiqsy, CityBee, and Carguru. However, the market is not crowded yet – there is still an unacquired part of customers for every player.

Riga City Council also is actively engaging in creating  pleasant conditions for cyclists and scooter drivers by introducing new cycling lanes and adjusting the infrastructure across Riga. Carbon emissions are reduced not only by using electric scooters, bikes, and cars but also because of citizens who prefer to go by bicycle every day instead of a regular car. This year, the Transport Committee of the Riga City Council allocated half a million euros for the organization of temporary bike lanes in Riga for six streets. Overall, there are 27 permanent cycling lanes in Riga available for scooter drivers and cyclists to be used during all seasons to participate in the traffic safely by not disrupting carriageways and pedestrians. These factors point out that Latvian capital city is supporting the European Union's long-term strategy and is on the path to reduce the carbon emissions by providing people with more favourable conditions in order to choose micromobility solutions over the classic ones and to free up the city centre from the classic traffic.

However, not all citizens believe that new changes on the roads are needed – many claim that the road traffic is suffering due to bicycle lanes. Due to the rapid increase of consumers using the electric scooters, the number of accidents and collisions between them and classic participants of traffic arose. Therefore, the regulation got adapted to include also the new means of transportation and stipulate its integration in the traffic by safe means. According to the amendments, the scooter must be equipped with brakes and a white light in the front and red in the back, the person is allowed do drive on pedestrian sidewalks and cycle paths, it is forbidden to drive a scooter without holding the steering wheel, ride and hold another vehicle, and carry a load that poses a threat to others, etc. Also, children under age 14 are forbidden to use e-scooters, but adolescents of age 14 - 17 need to have a bicycle or any other driving license.

As the infrastructure is still in development and new, better solutions are being tested, city governments should ensure that they have public support for installing dedicated corridors and suitable infrastructure for all means of transportation, whether it is a public transport, a personal car, an e-scooter or if it is just a pedestrian walking from point A to point B. This will definitely be a challenge because not all daily traffic participants are fond of smaller space for the use of their preferred transport means and such major changes need some time. The growth of daily micromobility users is unavoidable, furthermore it is just a matter of when it will be the most popular way to move. These new solutions should be adopted gradually so the change could come naturally. Nevertheless it is easier to jump on a scooter that is parked right by one's own home, drive to work, park it by the entrance and not think about looking and paying for parking space, someone stealing it during the day in the office or necessary efforts to maintain the vehicle.

With regard to infrastructure, the integration of shared mobility networks within the public transport system could also offer larger benefits. Some examples for the integration could be a dedicated parking space for micromobility transport in public transport stops. This would unite both means of transport in one network and furthermore would help to reduce produced carbon emissions while offering people even more reachable and efficient public transport. Considering all the development within the mobility possibilities in the city, more and more people are starting to fully rely on the micromobility possibilities and will continue to do so, therefore reducing the air pollution and traffic intensity especially in the centers of the cities. Overall it is good to see that local municipalities are supporting such developments but there is still some more room for improvement and we will continue to see new solutions. Designated parking spaces for e-mobility are to be seen more due to decrease in personal cars taking spaces in city centres because of people choosing e-sharing services over personal cars. For example, Bolt has already started e-scooter charging station installation in Tallinn, just like CityBee has developed its own e-vehicle charging station network in Lithuania. There is still room for improvement regarding the connection and servicing for all types of the transport provided on a daily basis, especially the ones that are related to e-mobility and micromobility.

Despite current disadvantages, and skepticism coming from part of the people, e-mobility definitely is the future. The incentives show that we are in the process of development as such transport means is something that has not been experienced before and more laws are to be adapted in the near future. The same goes for sharing service providers and micromobility transport developers. Technological capabilities are only evolving, therefore new solutions for mobility can be expected soon. Technological developments could make e-sharing and micromobility services even more available for people living in places where the weather conditions affect the use of, for example, scooters, especially during the winter. Future improvements regarding safety could also give the chance to younger users to use these services. Taking all factors into account with developing technologies that increase the range, speed, safety and comfort of micromobility vehicles, more and more people will find it more comfortable to switch to means of transportation offered by the sharing economy and the industry will continue to grow.