First of a Series
By Luchie Aclan Arguelles I Published: June 17, 2020
Honestly, we were going there.
With the infrastructure and guidelines preparation being done by the government in this pandemic, we didn’t really mean to adopt it so soon.
COVID-19 hastened this. No, to be politically correct, the coronavirus scare preempted this. Just a few trimming-the-edges and we’re really there.
Exactly 12 months ago, I was driving my sister, Vicky, to her work at Beverly Hills, California, USA, when I noticed there were so many bicycles, e-bikes, mopeds, and scooters “just parked by the sidewalk” and almost everywhere. “Those are rentals,” she said.
Controlled by Mobile App
The reason these were “just parked” anywhere was that rental is usually on per hour basis using apps like Bird, Lime, Skip and Spin, etc., on your smart phone.
If user doesn’t add to minutes, distance or location previously entered, the small vehicles automatically stop. No one could move it unless leased again.
Micro mobiles are totally controlled by a mobile app. The software that runs scooters is Segwey.
Like ridesharing apps Uber, Lyft, or Juno in Los Angeles, user indicates pickup and destination or distance. A slight modification is that micromobility utilities are rented by the hour (or minutes) and distance.
Of course, these could also be leased on longer term – by the week or by the month.
These small mobility means are not only economical and but also environment-friendly. No greenhouse gas emission.
In the US, there are lanes dedicated for these and these enjoy the right of way. Other commuters are disciplined and it follows that small vehicles “must be avoided”.
It is more practical to rent micro mobiles than to drive your car where parking could be a problem if not prohibitive. Nowadays, the cheapest parking fee in Los Angeles is $5 per hour. (Exchange rate today, June 17, is $1 = P50.16.)
Bird and Lime e-scooters, for instance, is a dollar an hour, regardless of distance, plus $0.15 for additional minutes. It is estimated that a two-mile ride takes about 10 minutes to maneuver in open roads and may cost less than $3, one way.
A system tells directs responsible lessors to dock where these mobile movers could be plugged for charging and just leave it there. Or, these could be parked anywhere for so long as it wouldn’t block traffic.
The battery of an e-bike or scooter usually lasts for up to 20 to 30 miles.
Mopeds and dockless e-bikes are rented up to $7 per day or $1 for a single trip. Of course, if one has multiple destinations, daily rent is more practicable although dockless bike share was actually designed for short, spontaneous trips.
Tourists take advantage of the daily rate. A monthly package of $30 but the catch is that rides are limited to 100 trips.
A Powerful Tool
If implemented properly, micromobility could prove to be a powerful tool in augmenting transport problems, specifically in this pandemic where strict health measures call for social distancing.
In Metro Manila, particularly, given the access to small vehicles, such as scooters and bicycles, even if not the electronically or app-controlled type, these could ease the woes of the underserved public who have to move to be assured the could reach their work places. Having been grounded for almost four months, guaranteed income for the family is paramount.
Survey shows that most Filipino motorbike users come from the low and middle-income group. Due to the demand of the time, an ordinary bicycle that used to cost P2,500 is now sold at not less than P6,000.
The less expensive lone-rider e-scooter may not be a practical buy as time could call when they have to share a ride with a family member.
Given that space is a great concern in major thoroughfares in Metro Manila, micro mobiles could definitely help alleviate traffic.
But is the Philippine government ready to support a micro modal system?