United States

Main issue: "Shared bikes and scooters are meeting low-income people's basic mobility needs — but they're not being subsidized like it​​​​​​" 

Location: Study of Lime users across all income levels in the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand

Main facts/points + key stats & data:

With some help from Chat GPT:

A study was conducted by researchers at Monash University regarding the usage of shared micromobility (in this case, bikes and scooters operated by Lime) by low-income individuals and its implications for urban transportation. Main points and key statistics include:

  1. Usage Patterns of Low-Income Riders: Low-income individuals use shared micromobility similar to public transit for essential purposes. Lime Access program participants, who receive substantial discounts (around 70-80%), were more likely to use micromobility for "shopping" (35%) and "commuting" (31%) compared to non-Access riders, who used it for errands (11%) and work (21%).

  2. Non-Essential Use is Low: Discount recipients rarely used bikes and scooters for non-essential purposes such as social outings (12%), joy-riding (9%), or exploring (2%). This dispels the notion that micromobility is primarily for recreational use.

  3. Integration with Public Transit: A significant 44% of trips taken by discount recipients were connected to traditional transit rides, highlighting the complementary role of micromobility in the larger transit ecosystem.

  4. Impact on Riders with Disabilities: Many riders with invisible disabilities mentioned that Lime Access helped them meet their transportation needs when local transit schedules were inadequate.

  5. Equity Programs and City Support: Approximately 62% of cities with micromobility programs require operators to meet equity requirements. Discount programs like Lime Access have become popular and are shown to provide better daily mobility for people who lack private cars.

  6. Challenges for Micromobility Industry: While equity-focused discounts have been beneficial, they strain the already tight margins of micromobility companies. Some bike-share programs have faced financial difficulties, posing existential risks to the industry as a whole.

  7. Potential for Integration with Public Transit: The text suggests that shared micromobility should be integrated into the broader public transit system, potentially with support from cities, similar to how they contract private bus and train operators.

  8. Various Forms of Public Support: Public support for micromobility can take different forms, including waiving program fees for operators meeting equity criteria, offering rebates for shared e-bikeshare memberships to low-income riders, and addressing barriers beyond cost, such as vehicle availability and geofence limitations.

  9. Awareness and Accessibility: The study found that awareness of equity programs like Lime Access among potential beneficiaries can be low, and some face difficulties in signing up. Streamlined application processes and awareness campaigns are being implemented to address these issues.

  10. Continued Study Necessary: The text emphasizes the importance of ongoing research to understand how micromobility can better serve low-income individuals, those with mobility challenges, and residents dissatisfied with traditional transit options.

In summary, the study suggests that shared micromobility, particularly through equity-focused programs, plays a crucial role in providing affordable and essential transportation options for low-income individuals, and it should be integrated more closely with public transit systems. However, challenges such as financial sustainability and accessibility barriers need to be addressed for long-term success.

Link + source / date:

Streetsblog USA, 20 September 2023