Commuters in County Dublin prefer walking over bikes and e-scooters as a means of getting to and from work before or after a public transport journey, according to a study co-authored by NexSys researchers recently published in the inaugural issue of the Journal of Cycling and Micromobility Research.
Micromobility – a term used to describe small, light electric vehicles such as bikes and e-scooters – is often promoted as a low-carbon alternative that can help people move away from using private cars and taxis since it can improve connectivity of existing public transport networks. However, there has been little research to date on micromobility as a travel choice in the first mile (also known as access trip) and last mile (egress trip) of a commute.
The study authors, through an online survey with 450 responses, investigated how commuters in County Dublin prefer to travel in the first- and last-mile of public transport trips. They also examined the influence of characteristics such as gender and age on people’s choice of micromobility, including shared bicycles and e-scooters, compared to walking.
In the survey, residents of County Dublin were asked about the mode of transport they would choose in hypothetical commute scenarios, including in the first mile of a commute with private bicycles and e-scooters, and in the last mile with shared bicycles and e-scooters.
Using statistical models to analyse the responses, the researchers found that walking was the preferred option for commuting for most respondents, even when other options were available and provided significant reductions in travel time.
“This was one of the more surprising outcomes of the survey,” said lead author Giulia Oeschger, PhD candidate at UCD’s School of Civil Engineering. “I was expecting a lot of people to be more concerned with travel time, since cycling and e-scooter-use drastically reduced travel time in the experiment, but despite this a lot of people still deliberately chose the walking option which is always the longest. The population of Dublin seems to really love walking and our survey shows they do it for enjoyment or for exercise. This seems to be a characteristic of the city of Dublin,” she said. However, how the available infrastructure and the perceived safety of cycling and e-scooter use on the streets of Dublin influence the results has not been looked at in this particular study, and is something that the authors feel should be investigated further.
Left: Lead author Giulia Oeschger; Right: Dr Páraic Carroll, Assistant Professor in UCD’s School of Civil Engineering and lead of the transport strand at NexSys at UCD
The authors also found important differences in transport preference in relation to gender and age. Young (less than 35 years old) and male respondents are significantly more likely to choose e-scooters and bicycles, while older and female respondents are significantly more likely to choose walking, even if other options were significantly faster. This is consistent with previous studies which also found that e-scooter users are predominantly young and male, the authors note in the paper.
Dr Páraic Carroll, Assistant Professor in Transport Engineering at UCD’s School of Civil Engineering and one of the authors of the study, states that “while the results of this study highlight that walking was the preferred choice for first and last mile segments of a journey, it also accounts for the existing limited ability to combine active modes or micromobility trips with public transport in Dublin and across the country due to, in some cases, modes not being well integrated with one another and the limitations in bringing private bikes or scooters onto public transport vehicles. However, the walkability of our access trips to and from public transport stops/stations is a key component influencing the attractiveness of public transport services.”
Availability of secure parking was an important consideration when it comes to choosing transport modes, the authors found.
The researchers argue that these results confirm that younger generations have a growing interest in micromobility, but regulations and adequate infrastructure are needed to promote equitable access to these modes of transport, with a particular focus on attracting users away from more carbon-intensive transport such as private cars and ride-hailing trips.
The paper co-authors are:
– Giulia Oeschger, PhD candidate at UCD’s School of Civil Engineering;
– Dr Páraic Carroll, Assistant Professor in UCD’s School of Civil Engineering and lead of the transport strand at NexSys at UCD;
– Professor Brian Caulfield, Professor in Transportation in the Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering, Trinity College Dublin (TCD) and funded investigator with NexSys. Giulia Oeschger and Dr Páraic Carroll are also part of the UCD Transport Research Hub (TREAH), which Dr Carroll leads.
This research is funded by University College Dublin, School of Civil Engineering, under the MicroActive Dublin research project.
About NexSys and its transport strand
Next Generation Energy Systems (NexSys) is an all-island, multidisciplinary energy research programme. NexSys is hosted by the UCD Energy Institute in partnership with eight other leading research institutions. 46 leading academics work in partnership with industry to tackle the challenges of energy decarbonisation, developing evidence-based pathways for a net zero energy system.
The NexSys transport research strand is investigating the critical infrastructure, behavioural and policy challenges of transitioning to decarbonised multi-modal transport and renewable energy use in a fair way, and identifying tangible evidence-based solutions via engagement and collaboration of key stakeholders tasked with implementing them.