Shared Mobility in Pop Culture: TV & Movies

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Pop culture shapes our lives in countless ways, both directly and subconsciously.  Since the late 50s, North American popular culture has been deeply rooted in car-centered suburbia. There was a time when being car-less was tantamount to being ‘class-less.’ A symbol of independence and personal freedom, cars made us mobile across long distances, transformed our society and have shaped modern media and culture.

Car placements in movies and television have made it easy for production companies to earn some extra money (2013’s Man of Steel earned $160 million from promotions alone), but big brands – especially carmakers – often help pay for production costs as well. For example, Mercedes-Benz recreated Fashion Week for the Sex in the City movie in exchange for a few shots of characters using their cars. If a car company is sponsoring a production, you’ll find it very hard to spot the main protagonists using shared mobility services or public transportation.

This is still a current theme Hollywood, but there’s a small shift beginning to take hold.  As young families, professionals and students opt for shared mobility and transit-oriented city dwellings, popular culture seems to be catching on, including what we watch on the ‘big screen.’

Check out 5 times shared mobility and micromobility was spotted featuring in recent T.V. shows and movies. 👇

Silicone Valley: Lime Scooters

In 2019 Lime Electric Scooters was featured in Silicon Valley, Season 6, Episode 1 named “Artificial Lack of Intelligence.” The series is a parody of Silicon Valley culture and focuses on Richard Hendricks, a programmer who founds a startup company called ‘Pied Piper’, and chronicles his struggles to maintain his company while facing competition from larger entities.

In the show, the character Colin rides into the office on a Lime electric scooter; he then chucks it into a trash bin. Back in 2018, it was a poke at the problems many e-scooter companies faced upon rolling out: vandalism and theft. At the beginning there was strong controversy around e-scooters. While it quickly became a popular mode of transportation, it also enraged citizens as the sidewalks were being filled with left-over scooters and people passing by pedestrians at high speeds. At that time most cities and states did not anticipate this e-scooter trend so regulation was pretty inadequate. However, over the last 4 years the regulatory framework has improved greatly across cities in North American and the world.

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Lime Electric Scooter in ‘Silicone Valley’: Season 6, Episode 1 “Artificial Lack of Intelligence.” (2019)

Borat Subsequent MovieFilm: Lime Electric Scooters

Lime scooters also make an appearance in Borat 2 ‘Borat Subsequent MovieFilm’ on Sacha Baron Cohen’s escapades through Los Angeles.

Lime Scooters in Borat Subsequent Moviefilm 2020
Lime electric scooters spotted in Borat Subsequent MovieFilm

An American Pickle: Zipcar Car Sharing

‘An American Pickle’ is a 2020 American comedy-drama film directed by Brandon Trost (in his solo directorial debut) and written by Simon Rich, based on his 2013 short story “Sell Out”. The film stars Seth Rogen as an Eastern European Jewish immigrant who gets preserved in a vat of pickles and wakes up a century later in modern-day New York City, attempting to fit in to modern day society. Including the use of popular modes of transportation, such as Zipcar car sharing.

Zipcar is an American car-sharing company and a subsidiary of Avis Budget Group. Zipcar provides automobile reservations to its members, billable by the minute, hour or day; members may have to pay a monthly or annual membership fee in addition to car reservations charges. Zipcar first launched in New York in 2002 and has since grown its fleet to more than 2,900 vehicles in more than 1,000 locations across the region, including every city borough and several surrounding communities.

Zipcar CarSharing in An American Pickle 2
Zipcar Car Sharing in ‘An American Pickle’ (2020)

Emily in Paris: TIER Scooters

In 2020 TIER Mobility, the leading European micro-mobility operator, won the world’s biggest e-scooter tender with a two-year contract to operate in Paris.

“We are so proud to partner with the city of Paris to bring our unique climate-neutral travel solution to the biggest e-scooter market in the world. Paris has rightly won a reputation as a leading force in the quest for green transport and we are delighted to play our part in helping Parisians get about their beautiful city in a safe and sustainable way.”

Lawrence Leuschner, CEO and Co-founder, TIER Mobility

TIER has a massive fleet of 5,000 e-scooters in the French capital and last year they were spotted in the very popular T.V. show ‘Emily in Paris.’

TIER Scooters in Emily in Paris S02E06 Boiling Point 2021
TIER Electric Scooters: ‘Emily in Paris’ (2021)

Outside of the show, ‘Emily in Paris’ star Lily Collins, was also captured riding around Paris on Dott e-scooters with her husband. Although we do not encourage this method of riding scooters (with two people and no helmets) we can’t argue that this is a huge endorsement for micromobility, particularly within the media and pop culture.

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Lily Collins riding a shared e-scooter with husband in Paris. Source: https://www.thesun.co.uk/

Bull: Citi Bike

The tv series ‘Bull’ follows the employees at Trial Analysis Corporation (TAC), a jury consulting firm headed by Dr. Jason Bull, who is a psychologist and trial-science expert. In season 6, episode 22, Citi Bikes are spotted as Bull walks through the streets of New York.

Citi Bike is New York City’s bike sharing system, and it has gained a quick adoption since its inception. With thousands of bikes at hundreds of stations, available 24/7 every day of the year, Citi Bike is a convenient solution for quick trips around the City. Unlock a bike at any station, ride wherever you want and check in the bike at any other station. Daily, three-day and annual passes are available, making Citi Bike a great option for visitors and locals alike.

Last month during the NY heatwave, the bike-share system enjoyed roughly 120,000 trips each on the first five days of the epic heatwave before dipping slightly. Electric bikes also continue to prove to be popular (there are about 2,300 working bikes available at any given time). In that heat-wave week, 38 percent of all rides were on electric Citi Bikes, even though those vehicles only comprise 17 percent of the fleet.

Citi bike in Bull S06E22 Goodbye 2022
Citi Bikes spotted in ‘Bull’ season 6, episode 22

Citi bikes are also a popular mode of transport with celebrities in New York. Just last week Sophie Turner and Joe Jonas were captured exploring the city with a little help from the bike sharing service. Leonard DiCaprio is also an avid user of the service. While sweating and cycling your way to your destination is a thing that most celebrities would avoid, environmental activist uses Citi Bike often, even sometimes bringing dates along for the ride. Again, we don’t condone the lack of a helmet when riding but we are loving the celeb ‘cool’ factor and endorsement of shared mobility services, just like Citi Bike.

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Leonardo DiCaprio, Joe Jonas & Sophie Turner riding Citi Bikes in New York City

Mass media is a major source of information for populations around the world. It can shape public opinion and help ensure the support of politicians and policies. Various studies have investigated the impact of television viewing on the beliefs, opinions, attitude changes, and behavior of viewers. Despite these few examples of shared mobility spotted in the media, we have found a serious lack of these services featured on the big screen.

Oscar Wilde once said that “Life imitates art far more than art imitates Life” and this is particularly true in today’s society. If we could leverage mainstream and social media more in our pursuit of creating sustainable mobility solutions, perhaps we can change travel behaviour quicker and for once, make owning a private car the less ‘sexy’ and ‘cool’ option in the cultural zeitgeist narrative.

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