Last Mile Transportation With Electric Scooters – How Scooters Solve Traffic Jams

As cities grow in size, the traffic jams get more frequent and more vicious. Time and peace of mind lost while stuck in traffic are huge reasons for productivity loss. This is especially an issue for people that need to make these trips frequently, like their commute to work or school.

Public transportation is supposed to solve these issues. The more people ride the bus or the subway, the fewer cars are out there blocking the traffic lanes.

And of course, trains and subways never get jammed. And buses sometimes have special lanes dedicated to them, making them more efficient.

But what happens when even the nearest access point to any kind of public transportation is too far? What if even the nearest bus station is a few kilometers off your house.

The metro station is too many blocks away from your office?

Or even the public transport system is so unreliable or infrequent, that it’s not a good option, to begin with?

If you’ve heard the term “last-mile transportation”, it is describing exactly that problem.

two rental electric scooters used for last mile transportation in a big city

Let’s see how electric scooters fir into the last-mile transport problem.

What is last-mile transportation?

According to Wikipedia:

Last-mile is a term used to describe the movement of people and goods from a transportation hub to a final destination.

Wikipedia on Last mile transportation
person walking in a big city carrying a backpack

Cities and governing bodies are doing their best in maintaining an efficient and affordable public transport system. But once the passengers are out of it, they still need to cover some distance to get to their destination.

Often times, those distances are still not small, even after using public transport.

It is probably obvious that taxis and ride-sharing apps like Uber or Lyft are very poor options. The cost is simply too great.

And usually, the distance you need to cover is not that great anyway. Not to mention that you will already be near the center of the city, which means there will likely be traffic jams.

Many people don’t own a personal vehicle like a car or a motorcycle.

This is especially true of millennials and younger people. They often can’t even afford to get one, let alone maintaining it.

Plus, the bigger the city is, the less efficient owning a car is. Cars are simply not the answer to last-mile transportation.

Even people that own cars are plagued by the low availability and crazy high costs of parking. Parking costs are even higher in the central or downtown areas of big cities, which is usually where people need to get to. You can see how much you will save on car expenses with this car commute cost calculator.

Public transport is, by definition, part of the last-mile transport problem. It will get you most of the way, but never all the way there.

On top of that, anyone that has ever lived in a big city (and doesn’t have a private helicopter) will know – public transportation systems usually have a lot of flaws:

  • delays
  • cancellations
  • poor hygiene
  • overcrowdedness
  • lack of safety

Because of all of that, many people will try to reduce, or completely eliminate, their reliance on public transportation. This increases the distance they need to cover even further.

Personally, I love walking, and I know that many people do as well. The longer walks from the bus station to the office can be enjoyable.

But even if we put aside the extra energy you need to spend on transport, time is still a huge luxury you will not always be able to afford.

Many of the big cities are not well suited for pedestrians.

In fact, in most modern cities, you often get a feeling that they were built against pedestrians.

aerial view of highway and skyscrapers in Dubai
This is Dubai. As in many other modern metropolitan areas, walking is close to impossible.

So, public transportation only gets you so far, the conventional transport method is vulnerable to congestion and precious time lost in traffic jams, and walking is rarely an option.

Fear not. Luckily, right solutions exist.

Rideables as a solution to the last-mile problem

The last-mile problem will be solved by any transportation vehicle that fits the following criteria:

  • can be carried by one person
  • fits easily in public transport
  • if not owned, it can easily be rented through a sharing app
  • is sufficiently fast
  • doesn’t get stuck in traffic

As you are already guessing, we are talking about rideables.

We can divide them into two basic categories: motor-powered (usually electric), and human-powered.

The traditional vehicles here include bicycles, scooters, and skateboards. All of them can be either electric or human-powered.

There are also a few other electric ones that don’t have a human-powered equivalent. Examples are self-balancing monowheels, unicycles, or hoverboards.

Big cities are coming to the realization that investing in infrastructure that caters to clean and efficient means of transport is paying off.

All around the world, modern cities offer more and more bicycle lanes, which are used by all rideables.

Some even have special lanes for vehicles that are faster than human-powered rideables but slower than cars.

All rideables are pretty good solutions to the last-mile problem. Naturally, some are better than others.

Battery-powered vs human-powered rideables for last-mile transport

First of all, battery-powered or electric rideables are clearly superior to human-powered ones.

They tend to weigh a few kilograms more because of the battery. But what you get in return is you arrive at your destination not feeling tired, sweaty, or dirty.

Charging an electric rideable costs almost nothing. The ride itself is basically free, the same as with their human-powered ancestors.

Plus, you can ride many of the electric rideables like regular ones (although you will rarely have to). Unless you really need that very little extra exercise from riding a few kilometers yourself, always go for the electric counterpart.

Owned vs shared rideables for last-mile transport

Throughout the history of electric scooters, ride-sharing apps like Bird and Lime have proven to be a solid solution to the last-mile problem. Still, they are nowhere near as efficient as owning the vehicle yourself.

rental Lime electric scooters sitting on a grass pavement

Electric rideables are so cost-efficient, that you will pay off the vehicle in the first year or two. Ride-sharing bikes and scooters are affordable, but over time the bills accrue.

In fact, renting a scooter for one year will cost the same as buying one.

Also, shared scooters have a lot of downsides that an owned scooter doesn’t. When renting a scooter, it will tend to be:

  • heavily used, abused, and possibly even broken
  • not fully charged
  • not as clean and safe

Ride-sharing scooters and bikes have their uses and scenarios where they shine the most. They are perfect for trying out a scooter before deciding to buy it, for a rare need, or when traveling to a different city for a shorter period of time. And, while not as cost-efficient as owning a scooter, many people use ride-sharing scooters for last-mile transport.

But for reliably traveling to and from work, or any other type of commute, nothing beats a personally owned electric scooter or bike.

Different electric rideables for last-mile transportation

Even among the battery-powered rideables, there is a difference in how good they are for last-mile transport.

Electric bike for last-mile transportation

A popular option, electric bike are a very viable solution.

girl waiting on an electric bike with several Lime and Bird rental electric scooters in the background

They offer several advantages.

Electric bikes have great range, and they can easily be ridden as regular bikes. Having the option to switch between riding modes is good, especially if you wish to get a little bit more exercise or save some battery.

But they have a few disadvantages, some of which can be a real dealbreaker, chief among them being their bad portability, their bigger weight, and their cost.

They have a harder time fitting into public transport than all the other rideables. Most models don’t even fold at all, which makes taking them on the metro or on the bus a mini nightmare, not to mention going through the steel bars that some metro stations have.

Maybe most important of all, they are the most expensive out of all the rideables. Their average price is several hundred dollars more than the price of an average electric scooter.

While a good solution, electric bikes are not the best we can do.

Electric skateboards and unicycles for last-mile transportation

As the kick-powered skateboard, the skateboard is very light and portable.

two people each holding an electric skateboard

The range of electric skateboards is usually decent, good enough to get the job of last-mile transport done.

Also, electric skateboards are usually cheaper than many rideables.

They seem to offer a great balance… but only if you have balance!

The biggest problem with skateboards, regular or electric, is that they are simply difficult to ride for many people.

A person that has been riding a skateboard can easily transition to an electric one.

But a novice will have to learn the ropes. And that includes possibly falling a few times.

And there’s also the issue of self-image.

Many people simply don’t see themselves as riding a skateboard. It’s hard picturing a middle-aged professional riding a skateboard on their way to work. Not saying that it doesn’t happen (and those people are the coolest!), but for many people, it’s simply not in their lifestyle.

Electric skateboards would be the perfect last-mile transportation vehicle for skaters. For the regular non-skater, they are not very useful unless the person is willing to go through a significant learning curve.

Almost the same applies to the electric monowheels, hoverboards, unicycles, and anything in between.

They are very light and portable, and some of them even have a half-decent range. Of course, because of their smaller size, they can’t pack big batteries, so their range will always be inferior to bikes or scooters.

Learning to ride them can take some adjusting. Don’t get me wrong – it’s not rocket science, but it is one of those processes that are hard to describe. It’s more about balancing and slightly twisting and tilting your body in the right direction. You simply need to get a “feel” for it, you ride with your whole body in a way and have nothing to hold on to.

There will likely be times when you fall off of one of those. Honestly, not very appealing for a young professional or an adult just trying to get to work.

Finally, the smaller rideables will not have great top speeds. But anyway, while in the city, you will be limited to the speeds you can develop by law. Which makes this less important.

Electric scooters for last-mile transportation

Let’s see then, what has all the advantages of a battery-powered rideable, but none or very few of their disadvantages?

Naturally, we are talking about the king of the electric rideables – the electric scooter.

rental Bird electric scooter leaning on its stand in an urban environment

Electric scooters are the perfect solution to the last-mile transportation problem. They are cheaper and more portable than electric bikes, while having very similar ranges and speeds to them. Some scooters even have ranges that can eliminate the need for public transportation altogether!

Taking a scooter on the bus or train is a lot simpler than taking a bike.

Even though some electric bikes are also foldable, they are still bulky and have parts sticking out.

The scooter, on the other hand, you can fold into a nice, compact, small rectangle. If the handlebars are foldable as well, it has nothing sticking out and doesn’t get caught in things.

Another advantage of the electric scooter is that it is far easier to ride than any of the rideables that require some skill to operate. Electric scooters are probably the easiest to ride out of all the rideables. All the monowheels and unicycles and skateboards are truly amazing, but they will take more time to master than a scooter. Literally everyone I know has learned how to ride an electric scooter within one minute.

Finally, and probably most importantly, people prefer using electric scooters to most other last-mile solutions. This means, the concept may already be proven.

Conclusion

There are some very good options to solve the problem of last-mile transportation.

Any personal vehicle that you can carry on a public transport ride is a good choice. The lighter – the better. Of course, the lighter it is, the less range you get out of it, but usually, for that last mile, you don’t really need all that range.

Electric rides are far more efficient and user-friendly than human-powered ones. Most of the people having a last-mile problem are people with everyday jobs that need to get somewhere, and efficiency is priority number one.

Also, owning a rideable is much more cost-efficient and reliable than using one through some ride-sharing app. The vehicle will pay itself off very fast, and by taking better care of it, it will be safer and perform better over time.

Out of all the electric rideables, the electric scooter beats all the others.

The public has spoken, and it has crowned the electric scooter as the solution for the last-mile transportation problem.

Just taking a look at the streets of any modern big city today will confirm this – everyone and their grandma are on the scooters, elegantly gliding through traffic with a big smile on their face.

We all like to argue against convention and established opinions. But this time the masses are right – electric scooters are the perfect answer to last-mile transportation.

If you need a solid, reliable, simple, and fun way to go that last mile, get yourself a great electric scooter.


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Matt standing next to his Xiaomi M365 Pro electric scooter and holding an electric scooter helmet
I love electric scooters, so I decided to make a blog about them. I like doing a lot of research on various models and brands, looking for great value and performance, both through data and experience.