Property Australia

Is this the beginning of a micromobility revolution?

PROPERTY AUSTRALIA October 7, 2020

As commuting habits change, expect to see more light electric vehicles in our cities. And get ready for a rethink on end-of-trip facilities, car parks and kerbside space, says Stantec.

COVID-19 is changing mobility forever. As commuters remain hesitant to step back on mass transit, alternative forms of transport are taking off.

Not all of these transport options are high-tech. The independent online platform COVID Mobility Works, for example, lists almost 550 new mobility responses across 245 cities, from pop up bike lanes in Berlin to automated walking signals in Brisbane to a 50 kilometre city-wide speed limit in Bogotá.

But momentum for micromobility devices is growing, says Stantec’s business centre leader in Western Australia, Elliot Alfirevich.

“This year, we’re seeing commuters take the next step towards an obvious future. Micromobility devices are the next logical steppingstone towards personal autonomous vehicles.”

Micromobility refers to a range of small, lightweight vehicles operating at speeds typically below 25 kilometres per hour. These devices include bicycles and e-bikes, electric scooters and skateboards, and electric pedal assisted bicycles.

In the short-term, micromobility can support office workers’ safe return to the CBD. But looking longer term, micromobility and autonomous vehicle rideshare are set to revalue space inside and outside our buildings, Alfirevich explains.

“Outside, streets will need to be tailored for different modes of transport and likely be separated by speed for safety. Inside, end-of-trip facilities will become more important and car parking less so,” he says.

“Landlords have been heavily investing in end-of-trip facilities over the last five years to make their assets more attractive to tenants – and these spaces are easily adapted to store micromobility devices. I think this was money really well spent and the landlords will begin to capitalise on this investment into the future.”

Some simple adjustments will be required to accommodate micromobility options, though.

“We are still seeing e-bikes and e-scooters wheeled up to offices and jammed under desks so they can be recharged. But battery technology has come a long way quickly, and racks that allow unattended charging in end-of-trip facilities is the next logical step,” Alfirevich says.

Alfirevich also sees the potential value of inner-city parking spaces falling due to rideshare and micromobility.

“The average kerbside car space delivers just over one commuter per hour into a CBD. When we get into the world of ridesharing, that same space delivers up to 33 commuters per hour, according to research by Stantec Urban Places.

“Based on this, a single urban block that can accommodate 60 kerbside parked vehicles has the potential to deliver an eye-watering 1,980 people per hour,” he says.

“While parking space in buildings is still lucrative, it is quite possible the increase in convenience and decrease in cost of micromobility and rideshare services will put pressure on the yield that those car spaces currently deliver,” Alfirevich explains.

“The emphasis on new building design should be on maximising kerbside access. Five years ago, we could see drones would increase the value of roof space. I think we’ll see the value of kerbside space climb at a higher rate than internal parking.”

Stantec’s Urban Places team of designers, engineers and scientists are innovating at the intersection of community, creativity and client relationships. Find out how Stantec’s projects advance the quality of life in communities across the globe.