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Cherry Peers into Chicago’s Micromobility Sharing Programs

Chris Cherry and Hongtai Yang.

Chris Cherry, left, and Hongtai Yang

With the rise of e-scooter sharing in urban centers, is it possible that users adopting the new form of micromibility are ditching bike sharing? Professor Chris Cherry and his former student Hongtai Yang (Statistics/MS ’13; CEE/PhD ’13) wanted to find out just what kind of impact e-scooter sharing might be having on bike sharing usage.

They focused on Chicago—relying on their open data policies—and gathered a total of 30 weeks of data to help policymakers understand the impact of these micromobility vehicles in cities. Chicago’s open data has enabled a lot of research to be conducted freely by transportation researchers around the world.

Cherry and Yang found that e-scooter riders compete heavily with traditional bikeshare. The study was published in Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice.

While the duration of e-scooter trips is shorter than that of bike trips, the volume of short-, medium-, and long-duration trips of bike sharing decreased by 10.9 (7.5 percent), 5.4 (9.6 percent), and 3.4 trips (20.5 percent) at each station, respectively. On average, the introduction of e-scooter sharing reduced the overall bike sharing usage by 23.4 trips per week per station, or 10.2 percent. Bikeshare member rides barely decreased (4 percent) whereas the more lucrative non-member rides decreased by 34 percent in the scooter service areas.

This has important implications for transportation policy and finance. Since non-member rides make up most of the revenue for bikeshare systems, eroding ridership from those users can have outsized effects on the financial viability of bikeshare systems.

As cities invest in and permit more public- and private-sector micromobility technologies, it is important to understand how different technologies fill gaps in the urban mobility and compete against and complement each other.

For city managers in Chicago and other urban areas testing micromobility options, Cherry says that scooters compete pretty heavily with the most lucrative part of bikeshare—the non-members who rent by the ride.

“Shared micromobility has a lot of potential to provide more travel options for more people,” said Cherry. “It’s important to understand how different types of vehicles and pricing models shift behavior to assure the most sustainable mix of vehicles on the road.”