Scooters, e-bikes gain traction as virus lockdowns ease

A man on an E-scooter as alternative means of transport begin to be seen on city streets during Phase 2 of the Covid-19 emergency, in Milan, Italy. EPA-EFE/Paolo Salmoirago

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Electric bikes and scooters, dismissed before the pandemic as a curiosity or nuisance, are getting fresh traction in cities seeking new transportation options as they emerge from lockdowns.

Some “micromobility” operators which cut back or shut down during the coronavirus lockdowns are now expanding to meet growing demands.

In the months before the pandemic, some local officials were decrying dockless bikes and scooters as nuisances creating sidewalk “clutter.”

But the pandemic has changed the outlook, with fear of crowds cutting transit ridership by 70 to 90 percent.

“The pandemic has certainly changed the way communities view micromobility,” said Susan Shaheen, co-director of the Transportation Sustainability Research Center at the University of California at Berkeley.

“Anecdotal evidence suggests that a lot of communities are considering micromobility as an important strategy to maintain social/physical distancing as the economy reopens.”

Traditional bicycling is also experiencing a revival in many urban areas, spurred by new protected lanes which may be used by the small electric vehicles as well.

The pandemic disruption “has created fertile ground” for micromobility, said Annie Chang, head of new mobility for the engineering association SAE International and author of a report on COVID’s impact on transportation.

“I think people have begun to see the value of tiny vehicles and that value will increase as the technology improves.”

Without new options, she noted, many cities could see a rise in auto traffic and congestion.

Read more via AFP

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