Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, shared transportation and micromobility services like Lime and Bird were reaching new heights of popularity. Unfortunately, the virus has sent them crashing back to reality.
As the world starts to reopen it remains unclear how people will respond to these services. While the future is murky for rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft, micromobility might be better off. At least according to a new white paper written by Lime and Dr. Mauro Montevecchi. It lays out evidence that micromobility travel poses the lowest risk of getting COVID-19.
Obviously, Lime has something to gain by touting micromobility as the safest form of public transport. Its network of electric scooters stretches across more than 100 cities. In the pre-pandemic world, rideshare services like Uber were certainly more popular than renting a bike or scooter.
Now that people are more conscious about their health and the spread of the virus, that might change.
In its paper, Lime cites several scientific studies that back up its claims of micromobility being the safest way to travel—except, of course, driving your own car. One of the biggest reasons for this is that the coronavirus is spread primarily indoors and mainly through airborne transmission. The World Health Organization has repeatedly told people to “consider riding bicycles or walking” instead of hopping in a taxi. An Uber or Lyft ride is no different.
According to social distancing guidelines, people should still be staying six feet apart. In the backseat of a car, riders are no more than three feet away from their driver. Even with masks, the risk of catching COVID-19 is far greater than riding a bike or scooter in the open air.
“The scientific literature suggests that as an open-air mode that allows for social distancing, micromobility carries a much lower baseline risk of transmission than other shared modes,” Lime writes.
Still Not Perfect
It’s likely going to be some time before people are fully comfortable requesting an Uber or Lyft ride. However, the pandemic has already shown that people won’t hesitate to hop on a bike to get around.
In May, not long after the start of the pandemic, The New York Times reported that the United States was facing a shortage of bicycles. It cites fears about public transportation and rideshare services as major factors sparking an increase in sales.
That could be a great sign for micromobility startups moving forward. It could be that the COVID-19 pandemic was exactly what the likes of Lime and Bird needed to finally break into the mainstream. Don’t be surprised to see more people riding electric scooters and bikes instead of cramming into a rideshare car as cities gradually reopen.
Even so, Lime notes that its service isn’t a perfect solution. Although micromobility transport has a lower risk of infection, users should still take steps to keep themselves (and others) safe. Those include practicing good hand hygiene, wiping down scooters before and after use, and wearing appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) when necessary.