Duncan Wilcock


e-Bikes: No Traffic.
Easy Parking. Join the Fun!

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Why I am Passionate About Micromobility

Climate Impact is a Huge Motivator

I am strongly motivated by climate change. My day job is with British Columbia's leading sustainability focused engineering firm, and I am passionate about working to reduce the scale of climate change.  Here in BC, 40% of our provincial emissions are transportation related, and 1/2 of that is private car/truck use. Many find it surprising that about 70% of of all private car trips are 15km or less (see the chart below).  Distances of 15km or less are the the sweet spot of micromoblity, meaning personal electric vehicles, weighing 30 to 60lbs - very commonly electric bikes (ebikes) and scooters.

Most Trips are Short - log-normal distribution


My passion for reducing my carbon footprint has led me to the electric bike pictured above. There are many types - including cargo ebikes, and that is part of the magic of micromoblity; what I like best is that micromobility is a rare win-win-win-win - in that I believe greater use of micromoblity will result in:

  1. reduce our individual and collective climate impact
  2. improve health outcomes for individuals and collectively by re-embedding light exercise in our day-to-day activities
  3. improve our societal cohesion and interpersonal trust - by promoting quieter, calmer streets with fewer cars by reducing car dependence - resulting in greater connectivity within neighbourhoods
  4. Access to more equitable transportation options (in terms of the poverty/wealth divide) than the current car-dependent culture so dominant in North America and much of the western world.  In a nut:  A car is a  financial barrier to freedom and access to opportunity, and for practical purposes, to fully participate in modern life in the western world - most people feel they need to own a car.
  5. result in cleaner local air quality and quieter cities - places that people will enjoy lingering more of the time
  6. result in safer streets by right-sizing a vehicle (30lb to 200lb) to transport 150lb to 300lb humans - instead of the status quo of using a 5000lb+ metal box to move 1.25 humans. (Most cars move 1 person almost all the time - the average over time is ~1.25)
  7. improve outcomes for our kids - key outcomes such as autonomy and independence. By making it possible to use fewer cars in our lives, our streets will be safer, and we will be able to permit our kids more freedom of movement - rather than being effectively imprisoned in suburban homes - dependent on  someone to drive them to most activities and friends.
  8. increase the number of smiles-per-mile for many - honestly - it's just way more fun getting around this way! 🙃

An Exciting Future

A lot of my enthusiasm for micromobility starts with the person who coined the word in 2017 - Horace Dediu. He is an outstanding thinker, shared through podcasts and writing. He describes micromobility as a disruptive innovation - in the business sense - meaning "a worse car," that will eventually supplant and obsolete cars/trucks for most short distance journeys. He speaks about "what is fast is slow" meaning that cars typically take 5 years+ to design and produce a new model at volume - where a new version of an electric bike can be designed and built at scale in 6 months. 

 This faster pace of innovation is likely to result in vehicle that solves the "jobs-to-be-done" better and better than the one-size fits all choice of travelling in a (ie car/truck). Fast iterations allow products (and biology) to evolve much more quickly.   This is exciting! I can't wait to see what we will come up with next!

I truly believe the innovation of micromobility is a wave of technological change, that on balance is going to make our cities a LOT better.   It will add mobility choices, increase equity, and I hope help rebalance a century of car-dependence. In doing so we will move forward into a better future together.

So let's get on our ebikes! Let's re-make our cities for the 21st century and beyond to be more walkable, bikeable, and friendlier for all of us.