In this post I provide update (new article!) and short reflection on my shared e-scooter research.
Shared e-scooter services have been on my radar already for some time. In the dataset provided here, we wanted to see the spatial variability of respective shared e-scooter providers in various Polish towns. The situation is indeed very dynamic based on the individual operator and the town, but also, as we have experienced during the data collection, over time. While some operators are static, others change their catchment zone from week to week. Trend well documented, for example, in Vienna.
Such a situation creates a potential barrier for the user to orient in the current offer and is also not trying to address the parking ethics. The especially problematic item on day-to-day operations of shared e-scooters. Both question its role in the urban transport system and its proclaimed sustainability. The latter, one, the parking practises problematics, is at the centre of the newly published research I’ve done with a friend: It is time to get virtual: limitations of shared e-scooter mobility points, case study in Cracow (Poland)
Transport authorities in Cracow (Poland) have started during the spring of 2021 designing mobility points for e-scooters to prevent e-scooters from cluttering haphazardly on pavements and in public spaces. This allowed us to explore how such a solution works in practice and understand its potential to solve the parking problem.
The study proves that the mobility points’ visual and technical organization is adequate and thought-out based on the areas’ functions. This means that locations of the mobility points are whether at the important transport nodes or places being frequent hubs or destinations of the potential and actual users. Also, the mobility points come with clear labels and instructions to quickly inform the users. Some of them also have self-repairment kits for cyclists.
Unfortunately, the mobility points virtual accessibility was neglected at the time of the research. This means that although the mobility points are easily recognizable in the physical environment, they were invisible in the shared e-scooter apps. Such a lack of information, as we argue, significantly lowers the potential of the mobility points. Especially given the fact that the applications do not only display the mobility points but also do not define the perimeter, which should be used precisely only for parking, so-called geofencing.
There are already examples where operators and the public authorities have been using geofencing in this matter. Paris is designing specific parking bays, and operators allow users to park only in such locations. Modification of this approach could also be found elsewhere, for example, Hradec Králové, a middle-sized town in Czechia, or Newcastle (UK), where dynamic (no)parking zones are being tested to address the drunk driving issues.
Identified, at the time of the research!, flaws could be quickly improved. And actually, this is the case of the Cracow.
The steps done in Cracow signalize the good direction the shared e-scooter development follows. By quick scroll through the current operators, I already see the changes. The mobility points are not only visible in the app of the operators, but there are also locations where it is prohibited to park elsewhere.
The shared mobility services could quickly adapt to a new situation and develop solutions to challenge the rising problems. What has to be underlined is that it all boils down to the communication between operators and transport authorities.