Benefits of micromobility in suburban areas — findings from TH Wildau study

Feb 22, 2024

Shared micromobility has become increasingly popular in many European countries. While its usage in bigger cities and inner-city areas is well-examined, there’s still a lack of research on micromobility ridership in small towns and suburban areas.

So, in 2022, we commissioned Wildau University of Applied Sciences (TH Wildau) to examine just that. If you want to jump to the findings, scroll down to the last part of the article. Otherwise, let us give you some context first.

Research questions and what we were trying to understand

Among other things, the study aimed to assess:

  • Whether shared micromobility in suburban areas is used as a feeder to public transport. 
  • What parking model users would adopt. 
  • If it’s economically viable to offer micromobility services in suburban areas.

To collect the necessary data, TH Wildau used the real-world lab* method.

*A real-world laboratory refers to a social context in which researchers carry out interventions in the sense of ‘real experiments’ to learn about social dynamics and processes. (Schneidewind, 2014).

Methodology: setting up 3 real-world labs to make the micromobility and public transport mix as attractive as possible

To carry out the study, TH Wildau set up 3 test areas (so-called real-world laboratories), offering locals to rent shared scooters and e-bikes under various conditions, explained below:

🔎 LabInhabitants
PT* density
[freq. in min.]:
Parking systemPricing
Berlin-Lichtenrade, southern suburb of Berlin2,91810Virtual, station-basedEqual to that in the Berlin Business Area
Berlin-Zehlendorf, south-west suburb of Berlin5,20510Free-float parking More affordable minute prices and progressive distance-based pricing
Erkner, an urban area in a metropolitan city region.716 30Station-based with yellow markings on the groundFixed price at 14 cents/minute
Real-world labs’ conditions explained.
*PT refers to public transport

Fleets of 100 vehicles were used in all real-world laboratories (50 scooters and 50 e-bikes).

All real-world laboratories had a local bus network and at least one S-Bahn Berlin train station.

Real-world labs in relation to the Berlin Business Area. TH Wildau study.
Real-world labs in relation to the Berlin Business Area
Scooter and e-bike parking in Erkner without and with pictogram- TH Wildau study
Station in Erkner without (left) and with (right) pictogram

The labs were there for 9 months (from the summer of 2022 to the spring of 2023). We at Bolt were responsible for setting up and operating the labs, while TH Wildau provided scientific support.

User surveys

In addition to collecting usage data, TH Wildau conducted further research on micromobility usage behaviour through surveys.

The survey was presented to existing users in the real-world labs via push notifications in the Bolt app as soon as users opened the app. 

Expert interviews

Lastly, to comprehensively understand the matter, TH Wildau interviewed 7 experts with the aim of:

  • Seeing how stakeholders perceive the real-world laboratories and Bolt’s sharing system in terms of a sustainable supplement to public transport.
  • Identifying different stakeholder needs concerning the holistic integration of a new sharing service.

Study results

After analysing data, user surveys, and expert interviews, TH Wildau came to the following conclusions.

Scooters and e-bikes as an extension of public transport

51% to 67% of riders used scooters as a first/last mile option. 

Thus, scooters and e-bikes can make a valuable contribution as an extension to public transport, particularly when public transport services (especially buses) are limited.

Scooters or e-bikes?

Users clearly favoured scooters over e-bikes (75% to 25%), which must be considered when designing sharing systems. 

Nevertheless, there’s also a smaller group that favours e-bikes. 

Woman with an e-bike. TH Wildau study.

Shifting people from private cars to micromobility

60–70% of users claimed they used scooters/e-bikes as an alternative to private cars. A quarter of users said they used them as an alternative to their car at least once a week. 

There’s great potential, therefore, in replacing short car journeys with sharing systems, even in suburban areas. In this way, shared micromobility can strengthen the environmental network and contribute to achieving emission-reduction goals.

What parking model have riders adopted the best?

As mentioned, the study also considered the best parking model for shared micromobility systems:

  • free-floating (when riders can park anywhere); 
  • virtual station-based (specific drop-off zone shown in the app);
  • or station-based (with ground markings). 

Due to the inaccuracy of GPS technology, virtual drop-off stations were deemed inadequate by all surveyed stakeholders. Meanwhile, station-based systems didn’t lead to a drop-off in usage.

The best model was a mix of station-based and free-floating or only station-based (if sufficient stations are available). 

Bolt scooters in Germany. TH Wildau study.
An example of a station-based parking system

The effect of monetary incentives on transport choice 

Economic parking incentives proved ineffective in getting people to use scooters more in conjunction with public transport. Overall, the study didn’t find pricing a determining factor for usage in the outskirts.

The economic viability of sharing systems in suburban areas

Lastly, despite high demand, low density leads to questionable economics. 

So, sharing providers have to reckon with the reduced economic viability of operations in the absence of subsidies.

The ideal-typical design of sharing systems

To sum up, we can draw specific guidelines for an ideal-typical sharing system design. But it’s ultimately individual and must be customised for each municipality. 

What’s essential is close and early coordination between the provider and the city, as well as carefully prepared communication to ensure system acceptance.

To fully realise the benefits of intermodal use and increase acceptance among non-users, cities must effectively integrate sharing systems into existing transport planning and infrastructure in the medium term.

Tap here to view TH Wildau’s study. And for information about integrating micromobility into your city’s infrastructure, contact us at

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