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Short Trips Favor E-Scooters and E-Bikes Over Cars

New report says scooters hold ‘universal potential’ to displace cars in cities.

(TNS) — Electric scooters and bikes have a “universal potential” to provide more efficient, cheaper ways to get around U.S. cities than driving a car, according to a report released Monday, but Portland is one city that could see the greatest benefit.

That’s according to a report from Inrix, a Kirkland, Washington-based transportation data company.

Why? It’s largely because drivers in many U.S. cities are taking short trips and sitting in traffic when they could be taking another transit mode.

Inrix analyzed more than 50 million car trips in cities across the U.S. and determined 48% in the most traffic-clogged urban centers are less than 3 miles. In Portland, 51% of car trips are less than 3 miles long, according to the analysis.

But all cities could reap “substantial benefits” for commuters and the local economy, including by reducing congestion, greenhouse gas emissions and travel times if more shared e-bikes and scooters are made available.

According to its analysis, half of those trips less than 3 miles could be easily replaced by e-scooters, e-bikes or bike rental programs like Biketown.

Portland came in 7th on the list of cities with the most potential to replace short car-centric trips.

Trevor Reed, a transportation analyst, said Portland’s density and urban growth boundary played a factor in its high placement. “It’s a pretty dense city,” he said, “as density increases, the trip length typically decreases as well for car trips.”

Reed says Portland’s bike infrastructure also makes it compatible for accommodating more bikes and e-scooters.

“Scooters and bike shares can really compete with vehicles if given the opportunity,” Reed said. “A big part of that is adequate infrastructure and robust regulations.”

Honolulu, New Orleans and Nashville topped the list with the greatest potential to replace short car trips with other modes.

Portland already has an established bike rental program known as Biketown and is in the midst of a yearlong e-scooter trial period. The city has said it hopes to bring e-bikes to its rental fleet in early 2020.

Dylan Rivera, a Portland Bureau of Transportation spokesman, said the city has spent more than two decades working with the community to have “lots of walkable, ‘Main Street’ style neighborhoods supported by a strong urban growth boundary and one of the nation’s largest networks of bike routes.”

“So, it is no big surprise that INRIX would find that Portlanders take lots of short trips,” he said.

Rivera said city data collected thus far from the scooter companies show most trips are less than 2 miles long.

Reed noted that e-scooters and bikes also have the potential to reduce traffic in European cities, according to the data collected from the agency’s cache of in-car navigation systems, freight tracking systems and other data sources.

Reed said that while some of the U.S. cities have inclement weather conditions – a nod to the rainy Northwest and humid deep south – he noted that some of the cities with the best bike infrastructure in the world are in northern Europe or Scandinavian countries.

If biking is faster and cheaper than driving, he said, that is universal. “There’s no reason to think that we’re all that different than a bike commuter in Stockholm or Helsinki,” he said.

©2019 The Oregonian (Portland, Ore.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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