The decision of the Parisian authorities to ban micro-mobility – the rental of electric scooters – may be the end of the industry and concept in crowded cities worldwide.
The Parisian authorities ran last Sunday a referendum in which almost 90% of votes favored a ban on the services in the city, with under 8% of those eligible voting.
Paris and Tel Aviv Account For Main Revenues of The E-scooters’ Providers
The biggest secret and key to the success of the micro-mobility industry is the magnitude and profitability of the rental electric scooters reached in each city. It turns out that two main cities in the world are the most significant ones for this industry: Paris in terms of revenues and Tel Aviv in terms of profit for all vendors.
You can see it by the large presence of service providers and the number of vehicles. The three e-scooters companies operating in Paris are Lime, Dott, and Tier, with a fleet of fifteen thousand e-scooters altogether. In Tel Aviv, it is about nine thousand altogether according to reports on local media (some claim a larger number).
Paris provides about 15-20% of the companies’ revenues, and about 25% of their profit, and Tel Aviv is in charge of about 10% of revenues and 30% of their profit. You take one of them from the equation and you kill the industry.
But this is not about the industry, it is about mobility, traffic jams, and smart mobility. We started Waze in 2007 with the vision to help drivers to avoid traffic jams, we are sixteen years later with hundreds of millions of drivers using Waze, and there are more traffic jams today than when we started. There are simply way more vehicles on the roads today, due to the increase in population, urbanization, and the ease of affordability of owning a car.
We feel it every day, and we hate it even more than before. On-demand scooters are actually part of the solution to the heavy traffic jams and air pollution in the city. Banning them will increase traffic jams – period.
Think of a major highway near your hometown, one that is jammed in the rush hours, and imagine one kilometer of one lane of that highway during the busy hour, in this strip of one kilometer about 40-45 vehicles are moving slowly, and in these 40-45 vehicles there are about fifty people – that’s it! Fifty people occupying one kilometer of the road – that’s the nature of the beast. We simply occupy too much space that we don’t have. This is about seventy square meters per person (twenty meters long and the width of a lane which is about 3.5 meters wide).
Outsmart The Traffic Jams By Taking Less Space On The Road
There are a few steps we can take to reduce traffic jams:
· Change the ratio between the number of people and the number of vehicles. Right now it is about 1.1:1 in the US and a bit higher in Europe, and we can do that by using carpool or enlarging the use of public transportation. To put things into perspective, if we change this ratio to 1.5:1, we eliminate traffic jams.
· Change the size of the vehicles – by using electric scooters for example, and this is why banning those is a bad idea with significant implications on traffic in the city. The area occupied by a scooter is much lower than by a car – One hundred thousand people using scooters every day makes ninety thousand cars less on the road.
· Increase the total area of roads – more lanes or more roads. The problem is it takes way too long to build, and the outcome is more vehicles, therefore more air pollution, not to mention that we usually don’t have available land to spread to.
At the end of the day, people will choose their mobility and in particular their commute based on three major criteria:
· Convenience – it may be personal but it is the most important decision-making criterion. Here’s how the decision-making goes: ‘I would use the train, but if the station is two kilometers away and there is no parking after 7 a.m, then less probably I will use it.’ The challenge is that using a private vehicle is very convenient (assuming I do have parking). We need to have other options more appealing and convenient.
· Duration – how fast will it take me to get there, door to door?
· Cost – how much does it cost? Most people are looking at the direct cost only when choosing their way of transportation.
An on-demand scooter service serves a major purpose here. They provide first and last-mile access to public transportation and therefore enable more people to use public transportation, reducing traffic jams, and pollution – are we sure we should ban them?
The voices calling to ban the rental e-scooters are worried by the growing number of accidents and injuries of users and pedestrians, and the impact on order on the roads with scooter users going over the speeding laws, etc. All those can and should be addressed by regulation and law enforcement, as well as public education.
Don’t Say ‘NO’ to Disruption and Change
There is no doubt that disruption and change are hard to accept and implement, and I am sure these kinds of conversations were also common when cars (automobiles at the time) were first presented and highly used in cities that were not prepared for them in the previous century.
Yes, e-scooters pose a new set of problems, but removing them would bring back old problems which are much worse, like traffic jams and pollution.
The article was previously published in Forbes.