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Research Projects

STATUS: In Progress YEAR: 2019 TOPIC AREA: Public transit, land use, and urban mobility Transportation planning, policy, and finance CENTER: PSR

White Paper -- Local Policy for Better Micromobility

Project Summary

Project Number: PSR-19-40
Funding Source: Caltrans
Contract Number: 65A0674 TO 019
Funding Amount: $56,101
Start and End Dates: October 1, 2019 to September 30, 2020


Project Description

Micromobility services such as shared e‐bikes and e‐scooters in urban areas have expanded rapidly over the past several years. Expansion in many areas has been too fast for local governance and infrastructure to keep up, creating numerous problems. In cities where micromobility is loosely regulated and where there is little supporting infrastructure, improperly parked vehicles have become a public nuisance. A lack of dedicated traffic lanes leads to safety hazards when micromobility services interfere with automotive or pedestrian traffic. Some cities have dealt with these problems by simply banning micromobility services outright, causing frustration for residents deprived of the benefits that these services can offer. Moreover, even those policies that do exist are not uniform. Micromobility companies like Jump, Lime, and Bird often have agreements with individual cities or counties. Because these agreements are often shaped by local complaints and issues, terms can be highly variable from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

Given that the rapid growth of micromobility seems poised to continue, there is a need to understand which policies are most effective in maximizing benefits and minimizing consequences of micromobility services. There is also a need to understand how different micromobility policies affect broader transportation systems, and for strategies to ensure policy consistency across jurisdictional boundaries. This research project will address all of these needs.

The research team will begin by reviewing existing research on the behavior of micromobility service users, especially with regard to how users interact with active transportation and transit. A key source will be Fang et al.'s work on developing "rules of the road" regulations for e‐bikes and scooters. These regulations could be expanded to apply to commercial micromobility services.

The research team will then survey policy approaches various cities have pursued with respect to micromobility. The researchers will investigate how policies correlate with city characteristics such as size, geographic region, climate, topography, density, demographics, and transit quality. The relative merits and drawbacks of different policy approaches will also be assessed. Based on findings, the research team will identify guiding principles and best practices for governing micromobility services. Recommendations will be provided for specific policies to help cities achieve different transportation goals: for example, to reduce costs, to improve sustainability, and/or to increase inclusivity and equity. These recommendations will be particularly useful for cities in California seeking to leverage micromobility as a way to help the state meet its climate goals. Such cities may adopt more permissive micromobility policies, especially when micromobility can be used to expand access to public transit and other low‐ or zero‐emission transportation modes.


Austin Brown
Executive Director, Policy Institute for Energy, Environment, and the Economy
1605 Tilia Street
Davis, CA 95616
United States
[email protected]