Dockless Scooters and Bikes Find a Home with Swiftmile

They are not begriming the streets anymore.

Swiftmile in park


When dockless bikes, e-bikes, and e-scooters came onto the scene a few years ago, I thought they would be a revolution, compared to the fixed Citibike-style bike share systems with docking stations that were, according to some, begriming the city. Pick up a scooter or bike anywhere, leave it anywhere, freedom!

Scooters in Marseille
Dockless Scooters in Marseille.

Lloyd Alter

Alas, many users did exactly that, leave them anywhere and everywhere. It doesn't matter that drivers leave their dockless cars in bike lanes and sidewalks with impunity; dockless scooters made people angry, causing cities to clamp down on them in ways they never did with cars. They were also expensive to manage and maintain, especially when they had to be picked up and taken away for charging.

Swiftmile Oasis


That's what is so intriguing about these Swiftmile Mobility Hubs. My first reaction was that they had all the inconveniences and problems of the bike share stations – until you realize that these are not bugs, they are features. They ensure that the scooters or bikes end up in the right place, they have options for charging right on the spot. There is a place for everything and everything is in its place.

This is so important because light electric vehicles (LEVs) can provide a good alternative to cars, whether electric or fossil fuel-powered. As Swiftmile co-founder and CEO Colin Roche notes,

"A transport system powered by light electric vehicles has a number of cost and efficiency benefits. E-scooters and e-bikes cost less than $0.20 to charge, and are roughly 15 times more efficient than EVs [electric vehicles] on a miles-traveled-per-kWh basis. Mass EV adoption will strain the US energy grid but transferring some of these trips to LEVs will help make the most of current grid capacity as we bring more renewable sources online. Finally, the infrastructure for LEVs can easily fit within our existing street grid, by simply repurposing existing street space."

We keep saying that for there really to be a transportation revolution, we need decent affordable vehicles, a safe place to ride, and a secure place to park. A system like this solves so many of the "wild west" problems that happened when dockless e-scooters were introduced.

Swiftmile Germany


The COVID-19 pandemic also changed everything. Many cities rolled out instant bike lanes and safer places to ride and they are not all going away. Employment patterns are shifting. New and different uses are competing for curb space, and you can park 16 LEVs in one car's parking space. As Roche notes,

"The tactical actions that cities and businesses took in response to COVID-19 proved there’s a better way to use our limited streetspace. It’s time to make these changes permanent; Swiftmile is part of a new class of public mobility infrastructure cities can harness today to reclaim public space for all road users, and support a transition to a more equitable and sustainable transport system."

We have to face the fact that we can't just replace every internal combustion engine car with an electric vehicle; we don't have the time, the money, or the space. We have to make alternatives convenient and attractive, and a properly designed system of LEVs, separated lanes, and proper parking like Swiftmile provides what might well be the answer for a lot of people traveling short to medium distances.

So many people are skeptical about how much a difference electric micromobility can make, how many people are willing to give up cars and try it, but the numbers are significant; according to Roche, "Electric two and three-wheelers have already demonstrated their ability to replace car travel – in 2019, 50% of shared e-scooter trips in Santa Monica, for example, would otherwise have been car trips. To date, these modes have done more to reduce oil consumption than electric cars."

The anecdotal evidence is there as well. The same day as I wrote this, we received a note from a reader thanking us for posts about e-bikes; Mary writes:

"I'm 65, live in hilly Vermont, and wanted to commute to work – 28 miles round-trip. I bought a step-through, considered the weight of the bike, battery strength between charges, etc. – all as you advised. Riding a bike is so much fun again (I have bad knees). The bike powers me up hills – it's just a joy. Wish I had gotten one years ago."

There are lots of people willing to try alternatives to the car. Swiftmile brings a bit of order to the chaos and should make LEVs more acceptable and attractive to cities and users alike.