Research shows that by 2011, younger-generation Americans had begun driving much less — a marked shift from their predecessors who saw the number of miles driven increase steadily since World War II.
In fact, data shows that the miles driven by young people (16 to 34-year-olds) continued to decrease from 2001 to 2009 for various reasons, including:
- Higher gas prices
- Changes in Generation Y/Millennials’ preferences and values
- Technological improvements that support alternative modes of transportation (bike-sharing programs, scooter sharing apps, electric scooter sharing, etc.)
- New licensing laws
Such a behavior change ran opposite to what federal and local governments were expecting at the time. And due to the assumption that Americans were largely going to prefer or choose to drive cars, roads only got bigger and better, to accommodate the projected rapid growth in the number of cars on the road. As such, much of the structural investments made during the early 2000’s were mostly focused on new highway capacity.
Statistics show that today’s Americans mainly prefer alternative modes of transportation but do not necessarily have convenient access to public transport. Surprisingly, nearly half, 45% to be precise, of Americans opine that they do not have access to public and alternative modes of transportation.
As a result, there’s a massive gap between most Americans’ preferences and what’s available to them going by the data on current modes of transportation used. Statista reveals that cars still dominate the roads today at 76% – even if most Millennials reportedly consider public and alternative modes of transport as “the best option for digital socializing and among the best for connecting with communities.”
Interestingly, an older study done in 2012 revealed that when Millennials came of age, they chose to live in places where they could easily bike, walk, or take alternative modes of transportation.
A supporting study by the National Association for Realtors corroborates this fact, reporting that Millennials purposely chose areas where they could reduce driving to curb their environmental impact. This further highlights the disjoint between the majority’s preferences and federal and local governments’ investments.
Shifting to Alternative Modes of Transportation
The coronavirus pandemic catapulted most global economies into a downturn. In the US, this created an urgent need to boost reform programs and policies to support the country’s economic, social, and environmental welfare.
The most pressing of all is the issue of climate change, causing activist and nonpartisan groups to call for change in policies and more robust federal infrastructure spending. The Center for American Progress (CAP) is one such organization: an independent, nonpartisan policy institute lobbying to effect change through a comprehensive reform agenda for the US Department of Transportation.
Included in the CAP’s reform agenda is the push for safe and affordable transportation access, healthy living environments, and much-needed repair of existing public facilities.
In addition, policy reforms should also accompany these infrastructural improvements to ensure that communities can benefit from safe, sustainable, and cost-effective transportation solutions. These solutions include personal mobility solutions such as bikes and scooters, more bike-friendly roads and infrastructures, and accessible public transportation options.
Scooter and Bike Sharing Programs in the US
The shift to alternative transportation solutions has been a long time coming. These solutions include the following light, low-occupancy vehicles and systems:
- Bike sharing systems
- Electric bike sharing programs
- Ride sharing apps
- Electric skateboards
The gap in public demand for alternative modes of transportation and government initiatives is apparent, and the US Department of Transportation does acknowledge the need for alternative solutions for public transport.
In an article that dates back to July 2017, the Department noted the need for “novel transportation modes” owing to the shortcomings of the existing transportation system. These include:
- High User Costs: Consumers spend a lot of money on “motors, fuels, vehicles, and related items,” per the Department of Transportation.
- High Public Infrastructure Costs: The government likewise spends billions of dollars to maintain the country’s roads.
- Limited Options for Non-Drivers: The Department of Transportation acknowledges that cars are not accessible to all, be it due to age, disability, or financial constraints.
- Risks to Safety: Compared to other highly-developed countries, America’s dependence on cars comes at a huge societal cost due to the number of injuries and fatalities resulting from fatal crashes.
- Environmental Consequences: The US emits an alarmingly high amount of greenhouse gasses, ranking second to China, with 20% of these emissions coming from vehicles.
The Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) also actively monitors the country’s micromobility industry, as evidenced by an interactive map and regularly-updated statistics.
Per the Bureau, the micromobility market downsized quite significantly from 2019 to 2020 because of the pandemic, causing many bike sharing companies, scooter sharing companies, and electric scooter sharing companies to temporarily suspend operations or close permanently.
The Bureau’s map shows bike sharing companies (docked and dockless) as well as electric scooter sharing companies in each city, such as Lime in Spokane, Bird and Wheels in Culver City, and Divvy and Spin in Chicago.
Most recent data show that there are over 60 bike sharing systems open to the public nationwide, with nearly 8,500 operational docking stations. The data also revealed that the number of these systems was on an upward trajectory pre-pandemic, with 104 operational systems by the end of 2019. This number may yet be reached again as people return to their regular routines in a post-pandemic world.
E-scooter sharing companies likewise increased in number just before the pandemic and have continued to see steady growth even during the COVID crisis. With 300 e-scooter sharing systems spread across 158 cities in 2022, it is evident that the adoption of alternative mobility solutions is well on the rise.
Local governments are likewise making efforts to fund alternative mobility solutions, with Colorado topping the country in public funding for electric bike and bike sharing programs.
Bicycle Colorado spearheaded technical assistance on “Can Do Colorado,” a statewide initiative that focused on promoting electric bikes as a safe, healthy, and convenient mobility solution.
With a drive to focus on low-income and essential workers, the initiative held a mini-pilot during the Fall of 2020, during which volunteers provided individuals with electric bikes and equipment they could use for free.
The pilot was successful, as several Colorado-based agencies, nonprofits, and private companies pitched in to provide resources to local businesses and communities. The initiative was particularly helpful to small business owners that needed an extra hand and ultimately to the reopening of Colorado’s economy.
Denver also launched an eBike rebate program that entitles residents to a $400 eBike rebate or a $1,200 income-qualifying rebate – plus 4,500 eBikes to Denver residents in 2023. ANIV is a potential partner that hopes to supply the city of Denver with the requisite technology, infrastructure, and equipment.
Aligned with Denver’s commitment to providing its residents with accessible transportation, ANIV supports flexible rental options with annual, monthly, weekly, daily, hourly, and per-minute rental rates.
Ride to a More Sustainable Future With ANIV
To circle back to the question we began with — are the government’s current efforts enough to meet the need for alternative modes of transportation? First, America’s budding and vibrant bike sharing culture is definitely a good sign that the adoption of alternative modes of transportation will continue to increase over the next few years.
However, the country’s bike sharing industry still has a long way to go before it reaches the level of adoption currently seen in many European countries like Sweden (35%), Denmark (28%), and the Netherlands (47%). As such, both local and federal governments should still set their sights on investing in bike infrastructure and public transportation systems.
Among Europe’s successful initiatives include:
- Bike and cost-sharing programs
- Bike education programs
- An abundance of bike lanes, off-street pathways, and boulevards that cyclists can use
- Accessible parking infrastructure
- Mass transit integration
- Well-connected bike networks
As you can see, the answer is a bit more complicated than just a definitive “yes” or “no.” That said, ANIV’s commitment to providing easy access to electric bikes and scooters can help bridge the gap. By making access to micro mobility solutions easier and more affordable, ANIV contributes to the government’s efforts for a cleaner, greener, and more sustainable future.
ANIV has already launched successful partnerships globally, such as gg in Armenia and MDB Transportations in the US, as well as other sustainable operations in Israel, New Zealand, and Egypt.
ANIV offers entrepreneurs a zero-coding-required and ready-to-ship app infrastructure, plus all the necessary equipment, such as bikes, e-bikes, scooters, mopeds, and intelligent lockers. With ANIV, businesses can:
- Quickly launch a branded, functional and user-friendly app
- Have multiple franchises across various locations
- Manage fleets remotely through AI
- Earn additional income through ads
With adequate support from local and federal governments, as well as continued interest in sustainable transport solutions among business owners and the general public, the US will likely see higher ride-sharing initiatives across states. Working together, we can all aspire for a more sustainable future, one ride at a time.