AT Summit 2024: 7 Key Takeaways for Shared Micromobility Operators and Advocates

The Active Transportation Summit happened last week and we’re still basking in the afterglow of another successful event. 

The two-day summit – which was co-organized by movmi and the BC Cycling Coalition, and supported by the BC Ministry of Transportation – brought together 330 people representing government organizations, nonprofit and advocacy groups, tourism organizations, infrastructure design and development companies, BC First Nations, and more – all dedicated to increasing and improving active transportation in the province. 

Although the summit focused primarily on active transportation, the topics discussed have a significant amount of overlap with shared mobility interests, especially when it comes to issues around micromobility vehicles, such as electric kick scooters and ebikes. 

Here are our seven key takeaways from the event… whether you’re a shared mobility operator, a city official wanting to improve transportation equity and affordability in your area, or a developer wanting to learn more about how sustainable transportation goals may impact your future projects, this is essential information for you to know.

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AT Summit 2024: 7 Key Takeaways for Shared Micromobility Operators and Advocates

1. Communities want better infrastructure

Unsurprisingly, the number one topic throughout the event was the need for better active transportation infrastructure. 

Representatives from multiple communities around the province have surveyed residents and discovered that people want to see more investment into active transportation infrastructure, such as safe cycling lanes and multipurpose paths for all ages and abilities. But they want to see this safe and robust infrastructure built first BEFORE they commit to using bicycles, kick scooters, or other forms of active transportation to get around.

This may seem like a “chicken vs. egg” problem – infrastructure may not get built unless local governments see a demand for it, but people won’t get out there on their bikes etc. and demonstrate the demand without the safe infrastructure already in place for them to do so.

And of course, all of that infrastructure requires some serious money to get built – which brings us to our next point… 

2. We need more funding

One of the points repeatedly hammered home during the summit was the need to allocate more funding for active transportation projects. 

Here in British Columbia, active transportation projects currently receive only 0.4% of the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure’s budget. New Westerminster mayor Patrick Johnstone received a standing ovation during his keynote presentation when he called for the government to increase that amount to 6% of the total budget, or $3 billion dollars. Although that might seem like a huge amount of money, it would be enough to fund all of the active transportation plans in communities across British Columbia and would effectively turn a dense urban community like Richmond into BC’s version of Copenhagen. 

Also, when it comes to funding, it’s important to remember that active transportation infrastructure is so much cheaper to build than highway projects for cars and trucks. And active transportation projects benefit all road users, as every person on a bike or traveling by foot or scooter means one less single-occupant vehicle on the road, which means less traffic and less upkeep required to maintain our roads. 

This is why we need visionary planners to step up and push active transportation and shared mobility projects forward. 

And to make it easier for them to get the public and government buy-in they need to get the green light on sustainable transportation projects…

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Image from Mayor Patrick Johnstone’s Keynote Presentation

3. We need more and better data

More than one panelist or speaker mentioned the fact that most transportation data collected by government organizations has a car-centric bias to it, and that non-automotive trips are significantly underreported. 

Part of this has to do with the fact that trips that people take by foot, bicycle, or scooter to and from bus or train stations tend to get lumped under “public transit” and not as the multimodal journeys they are – and so all of that distance covered by walking or using micromobility doesn’t get counted. 

Same goes for kids who have to walk, cycle, or scoot some distance to catch their local school bus. In many cases, these short trips are just as essential to the journey as the distance covered by bus or train – yet they aren’t reflected in the data. 

On top of that, many trips taken by foot or micromobility tend to be classified as non-essential – think about taking your dog for a walk, kids traveling to and from their friends’ houses in their local neighbourhood, or people riding bikes for fun or exercise. But if you talk to pet owners about the necessity of those dog walks – or ask children how important it is for them to be able to hang out with their friends – you will soon realize how essential these uncounted trips really are.

“What gets counted counts – and what doesn’t get counted ALSO counts.”

As one of the event speakers noted, what gets counted counts – and what doesn’t get counted ALSO counts. 

Organizations looking to bolster the argument for increasing active transportation in their area would do well to consider partnering with academics to collect more data to support their position that more active transportation infrastructure will support their community’s sustainability goals.

4. E-micromobility is a game-changer

The data coming from communities that have implemented ebike and electric kick scooter shared mobility programs continues to show that these forms of electric micromobility are a real game changer. 

In the city of Kelowna, for example, their escooter and ebike share program has seen more than 1+ million rides and has replaced 900,000 km of car driving since its inception in 2021. Interestingly, 94% of the rides were on electric kick scooters rather than ebikes, showing how popular scooters are for short trips around town. 

Another statistic that’s interesting to note: ebikes comprise 10% of bikes on the road but are used on 30% of all bike trips, suggesting that ebikes are increasing the number of total bike rides being taken. The evidence – along with the incredible popularity of ebike programs in BC and elsewhere in the world – suggests that people will happily replace a significant percentage of their car trips with ebike trips when the safe infrastructure is there to support them.

5. We have to get out of our siloes

This was another theme that came up repeatedly: the idea that organizations are working to make things better – but in many cases, we’re not working together or seeing the results we could be getting if we got out of our siloes and collaborated more effectively with different organizations, such as other government bodies as well as local advocacy groups. 

Several speakers and panelists encouraged people to ally with organizations that may not traditionally be considered advocates for active transportation, such as government organizations responsible for maintaining a city’s water infrastructure. That’s because when a city’s water infrastructure needs to be upgraded, it could be the ideal opportunity to “Build Back Better” by adding bike lanes to the roads that will need to be repaved once the water pipes have been replaced.  

This is why it’s so important to take an ecosystem approach to a community’s transportation needs. Whether you’re talking about public transportation services, active transportation infrastructure, shared mobility, or even affordable housing and or other development projects, none of things exist in isolation. 

At movmi, we work with public officials, mobility companies, developers, and other stakeholders to ensure that transportation ecosystems are built from the ground up to be fully integrated with the community’s existing and planned infrastructure to create a cohesive, sustainable, and accessible network for all residents.

6. Rapid implementation gets the job done

Several of the panelists and speakers spoke up in favour of rapid implementation as a strategy for building out cycling lanes, multipurpose paths and other active transportation infrastructure. 

They said that it’s often more effective to focus just on getting the process started rather than getting things “perfect.” Sometimes it’s better to use bollards and paint to create low-cost solutions that look really messy just to have something that allows you to initiate the public consultation process and start collecting data that you can use to justify building more permanent infrastructure.

7. Build it well and the users will come

Finally, one theme that was great to hear repeated throughout the summit was that if you build safe infrastructure that makes it easier for people to get around on foot or by electric scooter or bike, the active transportation users will come – even in car-friendly Calgary in the middle of winter!

The BC electric kick scooter pilot is an excellent example of this. Three years ago, the pilot started with six cities. This year the pilot was renewed for another four years and now includes 20 participant communities. As per the Kelowna example cited above, the data is showing that shared escooter programs are an effective and affordable way to decrease automobile use and promote healthy living while decarbonizing the transportation sector. 

Of course, challenges still remain in creating a transportation landscape that deprioritizes privately owned cars and makes it easier and more affordable for everyone to get around in a sustainable way. 

More public education is needed to illustrate the massive value that active transportation investments have for non-automotive travelers and car users alike. On top of that, the needs of pedestrians have to be kept in mind when developing active transportation infrastructure to ensure that travelers using different modes of transport and all going at different speeds are able to share paths and trails safely. 

But as many of the speakers and presenters at the summit pointed out, with gas prices being so high and the world dealing with an affordability crisis right now, there has never been a better time to advocate for solutions that make it easier for people to get to where they’re going without having to rely on a privately owned vehicle that costs thousands of dollars a year to maintain. 

As one presenter said, “We are at the very beginning of imagining what is possible.”

Shared micromobility operators and advocates should take heart and continue to pioneer and innovate, driving forward the crucial changes in policy, infrastructure, and public sentiment that will make shared mobility not just an option, but the preferred choice for communities worldwide.

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Written by:

 

Erin Whalen

Writer | Content Strategist

movmi

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