With the rising road congestion and soaring population of daily commuters, many cities around the world have witnessed a sharp surge in the number of motorcycle, bike, and scooter sharing schemes. As per the data released by the Texas Transportation Institute, an average urban commuter in the U.S. spends around 42 hours every year in traffic jams. The report also revealed that the congestion on American highways costs around $160 billion every year in lost productivity.
As it is much easier to snake through dense traffic on two-wheelers, such as motorcycles and scooters, the rising road congestion in cities and towns is propelling the worldwide demand for two-wheeler sharing services. As a result, the global micromobility market is set to progress at a CAGR of 19.9% from 2019 to 2025 and reach a value of $9.8 billion by 2025. Besides, micromobility services provide a great degree of convenience, especially to daily commuters, with their affordability.
Moreover, the enactment of strict emission control regulations by various governments, in response to the escalating air pollution levels, has fueled the explosion of bike, scooter, and other two-wheeler sharing services across the globe. For instance, the Clean Air Act, which is the U.S.’s primary air quality regulating law, was amended recently to authorize and direct the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to set standards for regulating emissions from mobile sources, such as trucks, cars, and buses.
Furthermore, the governments of other countries, such as India and China, are providing subsidies and tax exemptions to encourage the deployment of electric two-wheelers, to mitigate the rapid environmental deterioration. For example, the Ministry of Heavy Industries, Government of India, enacted the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid &) Electric Vehicles in India (FAME India) scheme in 2015, under the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan (NEMMP) 2020, to promote the deployment of electric/hybrid vehicles in the country.
A budget of INR 895 crore was allocated to the Phase 1 of the scheme, which was available till March 31, 2019, and witnessed the deployment of around 2.8 lakh electric and hybrid vehicles with the help of demand incentives worth INR 359 crore. The success of Phase 1 encouraged the government to approve the Phase 2 of the scheme with an investment of INR 10,000 crore, for a period of three years starting from April 1, 2019. This phase intends to support 10 lakh electric two-wheelers.
The launch of such initiatives and schemes is creating immense growth opportunities for micromobility service providers, who are now increasingly focusing on deploying electric two-wheelers in their fleets because of their eco-friendliness and greater cost-effectiveness than conventional scooters and motorcycles.
The other major factor pushing up the demand for micromobility services is the burgeoning need for efficient first- and last-mile transportation. By helping commuters cover a distance of less than 5 miles per trip, micromobility services are playing a major role in bridging the existing gap in first- and last-mile transportation. Moreover, kick scooter sharing service providers, such as Lime and Bird, will soon launch mobility services specifically for efficient first- and last-mile commute.
Furthermore, these services are primarily provided via the station-less or dockless model, which enables users to drop off the vehicles at any place, according to their convenience. This is further boosting their popularity among users looking for efficient first- and last-mile commute.
While the demand for micromobility has grown explosively over the last decade, the pandemic gave the industry a real shot in the arm. That being said, the progress of the industry did slow down due to the imposition of lockdowns and strict travel restrictions in many countries during early and mid-2020. However, once the infection rates began plunging and the situation came under control, the demand for micromobility services surged rapidly all over the world, as people began preferring mobility services that allowed them to maintain social distancing without sacrificing their travel needs.
Moreover, many micromobility service providers are focusing on addressing the pandemic-driven concerns of people about hygiene. One way to do so is to ensure the disinfection of the vehicle between rides. For example, Wheels, which is a Los-Angeles-based startup that provides electric bikes on rent, announced its partnership with NanoSeptic, which is a healthcare company, to cover brake levers and bike grips with a self-cleaning material that could mitigate the transmission of the COVID-19 virus.
Across the world, the demand for bike sharing services is currently the highest in Asia-Pacific (APAC), which is home to more than 10 million bicycles and 1,250 bike sharing systems. Presently, China is the largest user of these services in APAC owing to the entry of several operators, primarily Mobike and Ofo, which are the country’s largest operators. Apart from China, India is rapidly warming up to the idea of using shared bikes for short-distance commute because of their cost-effectiveness and environmental and health benefits.
With the production of nearly 20 million bicycles every year, ballooning population of daily commuters, and increasing research and development (R&D) investments by the leading original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), such as Bajaj, TVS, and Hero MotoCorp, the country is set to witness a massive rise in the popularity of micromobility in the coming years. Additionally, the growing traffic congestion in major cities, such as Delhi and Mumbai, and the deteriorating air quality are driving the popularity of this concept in the country.
According to a study conducted by the Times of India, in 2020, traffic congestion in Mumbai stood at 51%. This means that it took 51% more time for people to reach their destination through congested roads than it took them with no traffic congestion. Moreover, as automobiles are one of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases, they are majorly responsible for the degrading air quality in many urban areas. By reducing the requirement for vehicle ownership, micromobility aims to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and propel the country toward a greener future.
Other countries in APAC where the adoption of this concept is rising include Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Turkey, Malaysia, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Vietnam, Indonesia, Japan, and Thailand. Apart from the rising road congestion and air pollution levels and the surging demand for cost-effective commute, the rapid penetration of tech companies that offer telematics solutions for micromobility is helping popularize the concept in these nations. Moreover, the expanding internet access has played a key role here as all of these services are accessible via desktop and mobile apps of the service providers.
The popularity of micromobility is also soaring in many European nations and the U.S., with Mobike and Ofo announcing massive expansion plans in these countries. While kick scooter sharing services are witnessing rapid uptake in North America due to the early penetration of service providers, such as Spin, Skip, Bird, and Lime, the European region is witnessing a sharp rise in the popularity of scooter sharing services because of the increasing concerns over greenhouse gas emissions, surging road congestion in urban areas, and rapid technological innovations in sharing services.
Therefore, the rising road congestion in major cities and towns, escalating pollution levels, and growing consumer need for good first- and last-mile connectivity will continue driving the demand for micromobility in the coming years.