Why Kick Scooters Are Not Just a Fad24. January 2019
KEY TAKEAWAY: Kick scooters are changing the way people get around. It aligns with people’s needs for a quick mobility option, regardless of city density. Right now it may seem like regulations are the largest barrier, but if it can be overcome, kick scooters may be key way to get people away from private vehicles.
It has almost been a year since the kick scooter frenzy started, and we can now say that this two-wheeled form of mobility is here to stay. Kick scooter sharing has evolved people’s perspectives on what it means to get around. Kick scooter sharing has also forced city regulators to better understand what their region’s local mobility culture is, and adapt policies to accommodate for people’s changing needs.
Kick scooter sharing, while still a new form of mobility, has solidified itself as a great way to make short distance trips easier and faster. With a higher utilization rate than other shared modes (movmi), kick scooter sharing is poised to be not a fad, but a reliable form of new mobility.
Local Mobility Culture
Kick scooters are positioned under the sub-ecosystem of micromobility – trips that are under 2 miles. In the United States, approximately 35% of trips fall under this short distance (CB Insights Research). From that perspective, it becomes less of a shock to see that millions of trips have been made with kick scooters. Nonetheless, the fact that scooters were not ignored and is continuing to experience high utilization shows that kick scooter sharing is here to stay.
As it stands, kick scooter sharing continues to grow globally, with many cities accepting this new mode of mobility. From Abilene, Kansas to Zurich, Switzerland, kick scooters are being integrated into cities of all types. In over half the cities that Bird operates in, you would not find any other form of shared mobility (Bird). As a result, kick scooter sharing is proving to be an accessible form of new mobility to any city, regardless of infrastructure or density.
This highlights a positive outlook on kick scooter sharing. Often times, a city’s local mobility culture impedes new mobility’s ability to enter and grow in the market. For example, the Twin Cities of Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota no longer has a free floating carsharing service but still has a local station-based carsharing service in operation. They experienced a local docked bikeshare transition to offering dockless, while enjoying the presence of kick scooters.
Compared to the dense city of Seattle with 8,393 people per square mile (Wikipedia), Seattle experienced an influx of dockless bikesharing but has yet to have any success with kick scooter sharing (Curbed). At a density of only 515 people per square mile (Wikipedia), the Twin Cities are proof that different portfolio services work in different mobility cultures.
Scaling Shared Mobility Services
The rapid growth of kick scooter sharing shows that people are willing to try new mobility options. Evidently, the right service needs to be available at the right time though. Dockless bikeshares were thought to make short distance trips more convenient, but only make up 5% of bikesharing trips (CB Insights). Similarly, Scoot in San Francisco started with the seated scooters, but since offering kick scooters as well, they found kick scooters were being used twice as often (Medium).
Similarly, Lime started with bikes, evolved into kick scooters, and is now piloting carsharing. Because kick scooter sharing has evolved to being such a buzz-worthy way of getting around, people are now more aware of shared mobility. Given the ease and accessibility of use for kick scooters, they can act as a foray into a world where private vehicles are not the norm for getting around.
In order to mature as a form of mobility, kick scooter sharing operators need to secure its value in the shared mobility ecosystem. This could mean more than just offering kick scooters, or just making sure that kick scooter sharing can grow to the scale needed to become a reliable mode of mobility.
Differentiating to Succeed
There are cities like San Francisco where kick scooter sharing companies are competing against one another for more market share; on the opposite side of the spectrum there is New York, where eager operators are working tirelessly to get the first kick scooter on the road. The difference between these two landscapes is not just about politics, but also how future operators need to differentiate themselves from being just another kick scooter sharing service.
This can be accomplished by building a strong foundation on which to scale up. With the right technology, you can understand your local mobility culture, stay competitive with your IP, and be the mode of choice for different use cases.
While it may be too early to offer best practices on how new kick scooter sharing entrants should launch into markets, there is experience from other modes of shared mobility to guide what should be done and what to consider. Running a kick scooter sharing service is more than just making sure the scooters are connected to the cloud and shareable. Those aspects are core to shared services, but that isn’t what differentiates one operator from another. Instead, the intellectual property is with the integrations that start to really add value.
In the competitive and high valuation space of kick scooters, operators cannot waste time figuring out how to start up a service but instead need to develop simple and convenient user experiences, retention and loyalty campaigns, and other aspects that would make someone choose your service over a competitor’s. They can only do this with a technology backbone that is proven to be reliable and modular at the same time.
By understanding this, kick scooter sharing can further penetrate the market and solidify the mode as the micromobility option of choice.
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What makes a city more ready for micromobility than others? Do operators take that into consideration? We looked closer into the cities that had kick scooter sharing operations to determine whether there were any similarities to how operators decided which city to launch in.