We caught up with Lars Grødem-Olsen to pick his brain on shared micromobility: what works, what needs to be scrapped and what he predicts for the future. Lars joined TIER in 2019, before founding Movability Consulting, which specialises in new mobility.
Fluctuo: What are your predictions for the shared mobility industry?
Many people believe that technology will solve all our problems.
"However, the problem with traffic and parking is not vehicle control, but user behaviour."
The organisations who will make micromobility work are not private companies, but municipalities and national authorities.
Are there any changes you would like to see in the industry?
We’ve been trying a lot of different ‘carrots’ for users that haven’t worked: free helmets, incentivised parking and more. We need rider education and use ‘the stick’ instead in order to make regulations work. The challenge is: how are regulators and companies going to do that without losing the ease and joy of riding an electric bike or a scooter? I think that one solution could be to have in-app tutorials to educate the rider on different rules and regulations, and then receiving fines from authorities if you don’t abide by those rules.
What do you see as the likely model for cities going forward?
I personally believe that we’re going back to something similar to the bikeshare model, where it’s partly subsidised. But with scooters, less subsidies are needed and only in certain areas, because people love riding them. That's one of the things that can be utilised by cities and will ultimately benefit citizens and operators to have a better service in the city, especially in the outskirts of cities.
This is what happened with public transport. Train companies built a lot of tracks and then found that the routes weren't as profitable as they thought initially. Regulators then saw that they needed to subsidise in areas where operators were not offering coverage. They wanted to do this because they saw the benefit to cities that train services had.
So, you mentioned ‘the stick.’ Can you expand on what you mean?
I mentioned incentivised parking. It doesn't work. AI parking pictures work to some extent. But I believe that the best way is to learn from the car – give the users a parking fine. That's a 'stick'.
In today's regulations, fines are being given to the owners of the vehicles - which are the operators. They have been reluctant to pass the fines on the users, but this is changing now. However, I believe operators will find that dealing with another customer service layer behind the fines and actually charging parking fines is a huge challenge.
Are there any cities/countries whose regulations you appraise or disprove of?
In Norway, there is mandatory insurance with no upper cap, making it very expensive both for operators and users. Insurers are very conservative, and some of them are making calculations based purely on the hypothetical risk of sizable pay-outs. Very few personal scooter users have bought personal insurance so far. Some are questioning whether the pricing is fair, and why there should be no upper cap.
"At the end of the day, micromobility is a service that cities and countries want, and our systems need to incentivise their success."
What has caught your attention in recent micromobility news?
Over the years, I’ve spoken to a lot of operators who thought that consolidation would be faster. It hasn't ended up that way. We’ve had a tough period with financial markets, so I think it’s great that we’re here and no more consolidation has happened. It’s great because it creates more competition, lower prices, and a wider offering of operation models for cities to choose from. I think we’re in for an exciting season, and I wish all the operators luck in the shake-out!
What are the biggest challenges you see for the industry?
I believe the challenge is still that the public sector doesn't speak the same language as the private sector and has different incentives and goals. That’s a gap that consultants need to work on bridging. Operators need a translator and a validator for the public sector. The public sector needs someone to cut through all the noise. Operators are saying different things because they have different operating models and therefore different interests. And referring to what I said earlier, we need to facilitate conversations about sensible regulations that work, fees that work, useful technology, and the best operations we can get. I think that’s what the entire industry wants.
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