Compelling New Data Debunks 3 Key Pre-COVID Micromobility Myths

Since their arrival, shared e-scooters have given rise to some bizarre, even apocalyptic predictions about their short and long-term impacts.

Thankfully, however, the truth is in the data, and the newest numbers that are emerging one year after the onset of a global pandemic that dramatically changed urban transportation are debunking some of the most prominent micromobility myths that have persisted since 2017. 

Here are three key examples of how such data is providing important new insights on the short and long-term impacts of shared micro-EVs. 

1.) E-Scooters Are a Mainstay, Not a Fad

Last summer, the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) reported that the number of e-scooter trips in the US had jumped from 38 million in 2018 to 86 million in 2019. This was a good early indicator that micromobility is here to stay, and more recent evidence has only corroborated these findings. 

New Data: Since March, 2020, well over 3,000,000 new first time riders have tried Bird despite a global COVID pandemic that has seen travel severely restricted and entire cities in quarantine for months at a time. Europe in particular has experienced significant growth in micromobility ridership over the past year. In France alone, there were 12.8 million e-scooter rides taken in 2020 even though the country was on lockdown for a full quarter of the year. 

2.) The Vast Majority of E-Scooter Riders are Locals

The myth that scooter riders were predominantly tourists was technically debunked well before COVID, when multiple micromobility surveys conducted around the world indicated that the majority of e-scooter riders were locals. At Bird, visitors typically accounted for between 10%-30% of pre-pandemic ridership depending on the city.

New Data: Post-pandemic, however, that ratio has changed dramatically. More than 99 in 100 Bird riders since March, 2020 identify as local to the city in which they’re riding. As we’ve seen from the numbers of new first-time riders above, this shift can’t be attributed to a simple slowdown in travel. Instead, important initiatives like free rides for healthcare workers and free rides for teachers have helped encourage an increasing number of locals to switch to e-scooters. 

3.) E-Scooters Are Good For Public Transit

COVID has taught us that the relationship between public transit and e-scooters, once feared to be parasitic, is instead symbiotic. Contrary to some initial estimations, micro-EVs act as a supplement to buses and trains in a variety of ways—connecting riders to stations, integrating with multimodal transit networks and helping keep ridership manageable during peak hours when the risk of virus transmission is highest. 

New Data: The dramatic rise in partnerships between e-scooter and public transit operators, particularly in Europe, is a clear indicator of this symbiotic relationship. Earlier this month, Bird joined forces with France’s national state-owned railway company SNCF to increase multimodal transportation access in French cities. It’s the most recent in a growing trend of transit/micromobility partnerships that has taken off since COVID, stretching from Iberia to central and northern Europe. 

Interestingly, Bird’s increased ride durations that were first reported in May of 2020 and attributed in part to public transit disruptions have continued into 2021. Bird rides today are 40% longer than pre-COVID, indicating that riders’ long-term habits have changed as a result of the pandemic. 

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