Active Transportation and Micromobility

Photo of people riding bikes.

Active transportation is human-powered mobility, such as biking, walking, or rolling. Active transportation directly replaces motor vehicle miles traveled, so these modes are effective at conserving fuel, reducing vehicle emissions, bridging the first- and last-mile gap, and improving individual and public health. Bicycles, electric bikes, wheelchairs, scooters, and even walking are all considered active transportation.

Programs that offer bike- or scooter-sharing can expand the benefits of active transportation to even more people, including those that may not otherwise have access to their own bike or scooter. Local governments and partners can implement these sharing programs for either manual or electric options to increase access, ridership, and public comfort and awareness for these energy-efficient modes. These programs should be thought of as extensions of public transit and can provide an effective first-mile last-mile solution for residents. Education programs have also been shown to improve ridership by teaching riders how to ride safely and how to repair and maintain their bicycles.

Providing maps of cyclist-friendly routes, bike share stations, and supporting infrastructure is another way to facilitate bike riding. An example is the Denver Regional Bicycle Map.

Infrastructure Development

Active transportation requires a dedicated network of sidewalks, bike lanes, bike paths, overpasses, crosswalks, and bike racks to ensure people can get where they need to go safely and efficiently. Corporate decision makers and transportation planners can support active transportation by developing infrastructure that can support users' safety and convenience including dedicated and separated bike lanes, facility upgrades (e.g., secure bike lockers on site), and sufficient lighting along routes for evening riders. Employers can provide bike racks, locker rooms or showers, and bicycle maintenance facilities to make it easier for employees to commute by active transportation. Additionally, cycling infrastructure can make cities more equitable because it can be a lower cost mode of transportation available to a broader range of residents. Analysis from CityLab showed that while all income categories have bike commuters, bike-riding skews toward lower-income households on average.

The Big Jump Project is helping 10 U.S. cities each year to improve their bicycling infrastructure and boost ridership by building biking networks and conducting outreach to encourage people to ride more.

To help improve the safety of pedestrians and cyclists, state and local jurisdictions have enacted a number of local laws. An example would be the safe passing law developed by the League of American Bicyclists. Bicycle advocacy groups including the League of American Bicyclists and PeopleForBikes PlacesForBikes program promote policies and infrastructure development to encourage safety for users of these active modes. And government organizations like Metro in Portland, Oregon, are developing regional active transportation networks to make it easier to walk, ride a bike, and access transit through stronger pedestrian and bicycle policies.

Shared Micromobility Programs

Shared micromobility refers to fleets of fully or partially human-powered vehicles including manual bikes, e-bikes, and e-scooters that individuals can access for short-term use. Micromobility options fill a gap in needs for single segment or one-way trips, allowing users to avoid the costs of purchasing, maintaining, and storing a bike. These solutions also present another way to close first-and-last-mile gaps by providing a more affordable, accessible, and equitable way for individuals to get to and from public transit options.

These shared small vehicles are typically found in higher-density urban areas, though micromobility systems exist in communities of various sizes. Users can access bikes through web- or app-based platforms and pay through membership plans or by individual rides. Memberships and payment schedules usually encourage many short trips instead of fewer long trips to minimize bicycle downtime. When a user completes a trip, they either return the bike or scooter to a docking area or, in some dockless systems, can leave it where their trip ends.

In recent years, the deployment of micromobility sharing services (bikes and scooters) has expanded rapidly in cities across the United States. According to the National Association of City Transportation Officials, the number of shared bike trips in the 100 largest U.S. cities increased from 320,000 in 2010 to 84 million in 2018 and then again to 136 million in 2019, representing a 60% increase in a single year from 2018 to 2019. As one example, Capital Bikeshare partners with public and private organizations to make more than 5,000 bicycles available at more than 600 stations across the Washington, D.C., metro area. Policy and research relevant resources exist specific to micromobility, for example the Shared Micromobility Playbook published by Transportation for America and the Shared Mobility Policy Playbook by the Berkeley Transportation Sustainability Research Center.

More Resources

The U.S. Department of Transportation has published a detailed list of additional resources on their "Expand and Improve Bicycle and Pedestrian Infrastructure" page, which includes case studies, best practices, research, and policies related to bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure and safety.