If you could ride a bicycle, moped, or e-kickscooter to work, would you do so? Respondents in the Mobility Ownership Consumer Survey, conducted by the McKinsey Center for Future Mobility in July 2021, were enthusiastic about these options, with almost 70 percent stating that they were willing to use micromobility vehicles for their commute (exhibit).1 (Bicycles and mopeds could be traditional or electric.) These findings suggest that a growing number of workers may gravitate toward smaller, more environmentally friendly forms of transport as pandemic restrictions lift and offices reopen. They are in line with our previous research in 2020, which suggested that micromobility was poised to make a strong comeback when the COVID-19 pandemic abated and people began traveling more.
Our survey also revealed that micromobility uptake will be far from uniform because of location-specific factors. The willingness to use small vehicles was highest in countries with a long tradition of micromobility, such as Italy (81 percent) and China (86 percent). At the other end of the spectrum, only 60 percent of US respondents said they would consider micromobility, perhaps because they have traditionally relied on private cars or public transportation for their commutes, and the sight of someone weaving through traffic on a moped or scooter is relatively rare.
Overall, survey respondents preferred bicycles, which offer a longer range and better storage space than e-kickscooters and a lower price than mopeds. A few exceptions were apparent, however. For instance, mopeds are particularly popular in China, where authorities do not require drivers to have a license or insurance coverage for vehicles with a maximum speed of 25 kilometers/hour. Respondents in the United Kingdom and China were the most reluctant users of e-kickscooters, possibly because those countries either banned those vehicles because of safety concerns or only recently approved them. By contrast, consumers in the United States, France, and Germany, which have established sharing systems, were more open to e-kickscooters. This trend is unsurprising, since any vehicle that is readily available through a sharing service tends to experience an uptick in private purchases.
The findings from our survey have implications for players across the micromobility ecosystem and for their prospects for success:
- Shared-mobility providers. Given that micromobility preferences vary by geography, shared-mobility providers must understand local transportation habits for any city or region in which they wish to operate. Generally, providers first pick the cities in which they want to operate and then examine local preferences to determine what modes of transport will be in greatest demand. At some point, they may expand their product portfolios—for instance, adding mopeds to the bicycle options—in certain locations. While this expansion could win new business, their capital expenditures will rise. A combined fleet, in which vehicles have different maintenance requirements, charging needs, and life cycles, will also increase strategic and operational demands.
- Charging and parking operators. This group can offer charging and parking solutions suitable for several micromobility modes. In addition to increasing demand for their facilities, a comprehensive approach will help cities minimize the number of vehicles parked on streets and optimize micromobility usage.
- Public-transit operators. To enable seamless, point-to-point journeys, public-transit operators can provide dedicated space in buses or trains to store various micromobility vehicles. This strategy will also help increase the customer base for both public-transit and micromobility operators.
- Cities. When selecting a provider for shared micromobility services, cities should favor businesses that have a broad product portfolio and truly understand the local mobility needs. They can also promote the growth of micromobility by installing riding, parking, and charging infrastructure that integrates several micromobility modes and also facilitates transport for pedestrians and other travelers. Regulators can help by creating safe mobility corridors for all forms of transport. First, however, they must ensure that they have public support from anyone who regularly travels to their location.