Tech & Science dictionary


or micro-mobility [mahy-kroh-moh-bil-i-tee]

What does micromobility mean?

Micromobility refers to the use of electronic scooters and bikes to travel shorter distances around cities, often to or from another mode of transportation (bus, train, or car). Users typically rent such a scooter or bike for a short period of time using an app.

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Where does micromobility come from?

Reuters / Mike Blake/ PBS

Perhaps you seen, used, or even cursed at one of those electric scooters that have been proliferating in major cities across the US and world. These scooters—along with electric or pedal-assisted bicycles and some other small means of transportation, such as electric skateboards—are part of an urban transportation trend called micromobility.

The term was specifically applied to this transportation trend by 2017, though the word can be found earlier as a technical term in computer sciences. Mobility refers to “ways of getting around” and micro-, “small,” alluding both to the size and length of trip for these means of transportation, which are intended to be help reduce congestion, pollution, and travel times, especially in urban areas with public transportation systems.

The idea behind micromobility is to have an efficient and environmentally-friendly way of getting around cities. A rider might rent a scooter to travel a mile to get to a bus stop or subway station for a longer trip to, say, the office. These distances often called the first or last miles, i.e., the distance to or from a main mode of transportation.

Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority

Micromobility is especially used of less electric scooter or bike sharing services like Jump, Lime, and Bird. Lime and Bird, two of the most well-known micromobility services, began in 2017 and saw extreme growth in 2018.

Typically, riders download a company’s app and pay to rent for a short period of time the e-transport devices, which are scattered across urban areas (they generally don’t have specific docking/parking stations).

While the sudden growth of micromobility has shown to reduce some congestion in cities, it also has posed issues of theft, vandalism, and safety, both to riders, pedestrians, bicyclists, and motor vehicle operators.

Examples of micromobility

Just returned from Berlin and was amazed to see #micromobility and #escooters in action! Everyone from young to senior were using them. Although safe riding is still an issue! Too many near accidents...
@n_sauber, July 2019
Stand-up electric scooters have been around since the 1980s. But the latest trend in micromobility—dockless electric scooters—launched in 2017. They arrived in the District of Columbia in 2018, and now, just over a year later, thousands of scooters are on the streets.
Henry Zimmerman, NPR, March 2019
CB Insights

Who uses micromobility?

While many people take advantage of micromobility, the term itself is largely used in technology, transportation, business, and urban planning spaces, including in related popular media outlets.

Micromobility, as a trend, has many praisers and detractors (especially as it regards the way they are perceived to have “taken over” public spaces and may obstruct pathways for people with accessibility needs).

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This is not meant to be a formal definition of micromobility like most terms we define on, but is rather an informal word summary that hopefully touches upon the key aspects of the meaning and usage of micromobility that will help our users expand their word mastery.