On your bike: how micro-mobility is changing corporate real estate in cities

Micro-mobility in cities is on the rise, but how can real estate professionals benefit from this shift in transport preference? A new report from Urban Land Institute looks at how the property sector is responding

According to the New York City-based National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO), people in the United States took 10 million trips on dockless e-bikes and 86 million trips on scooters in 2019. Those numbers are expected to rise as experts such as Cushman & Wakefield predict the widespread adoption of more micro-mobility amenities such as bike share and scooter docks in the short term, and commuters enhancing their travel with micro-mobility in the medium term. This trend in how people interact with and move around cities directly impacts urban real estate.

A new report by the Urban Land Institute entitled, Small Vehicles, Big Impact: Micro-mobility’s Value for Cities and Real Estate’, evaluates the current and future market for micro-mobility and how it might impact future real estate strategy. The report, largely rooted in research from the US, defines micro-mobility as ‘lightweight, typically single-person vehicles that can be shared or privately owned, electric or human powered, and docked or dockless.’

Affecting value proposition

Developers, property owners, managers, and investors are increasingly recognising the value that micro-mobility can bring to their properties, and there is a growing case for the industry to support micro-mobility efforts.

As micro-mobility continues to evolve, having a diversity of vehicle types to meet different needs will support fluid mobility throughout the city as well as increase accessibility to different urban areas. As the demand grows, so does the value proposition for real estate. Increasingly, commercial real estate owners are demanding dockless, e-bike shares that can increase the value of their properties, make their buildings more accessible, and provide a new and innovative amenity for tenants.

There are three ways developers and property owners can respond to and support the rise of urban micro-mobility, according to the report. The first is by building a supportive infrastructure to host on-site scooter and bike charging stations, and by converting car parking spaces into bike drop-off zones.

The second is by recognising the benefits micro-mobility can bring to future projects. These benefits include marketing opportunities, expanded multimodal property access and the potential for  reduced parking requirements.

The third is in the form of the equity and sustainability benefits that come hand-in-hand with micro-mobility. By providing the right infrastructure, real estate professionals can advance city sustainability and social equity goals, while also improving their public corporate profile.

Culling the car commute

During the pandemic, micro-mobility use dropped 60 to 70 per cent in Europe and the US, but it is already rebounding. City dwellers switched to bikes and scooters in favour of public transport during the pandemic to conduct errands and make short trips; now when people start to commute in the city again, they will continue to adopt this mode of transport.

Micro-mobility expands the radius that people can easily travel without a car, and it provides a low-carbon alternative. The report found that 36 per cent of trips using shared micro-mobility replace a car trip. This can help reduce traffic congestion and preserve air quality while improving the link between people, transport and destinations such as the office.

‘Micro-mobility can provide a route away from cars in cities that are built for cars…’

However, this utopian ideology of a car-less city does not come without its hurdles. Unlocking the benefits of micro-mobility requires working across sectors to provide the necessary infrastructure and supportive environment with reliable charging stations. This requires the alignment between the commercial real estate industry and public sector to work together to build a healthier transportation ecosystem, and ultimately shape more liveable cities.

Understanding the value that today’s micro-mobility options can bring to properties can build a strong foundation for continuing to make the most of new mobility options in the future. The sustainability story alone can significantly contribute towards corporate responsibility goals and provide real estate with green certification such as WELL or LEED ratings.

As certifications like LEED evolve, there may be opportunities for real estate professionals to earn credits from supporting the use of micro-mobility. Although small in size, micro-mobility has the potential to have a big impact on future mobility, equity and sustainability in our urban landscapes.

The Urban Land Institute is a global, member-driven organisation comprising more than 45,000 real estate and urban development professionals dedicated to advancing the Institute’s mission of shaping the future of the built environment for transformative impact in communities worldwide.
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