Californians love to be outside. But even on a clear, sunny day, we know that the air we are breathing isn’t as clean and clear as it looks, especially in our increasingly congested and crowded cities.
Air quality is a complex topic that is affected by the weather, the time of day, and events like wildfires. But one aspect of air quality is very clear: tailpipe emissions make air quality worse. When those emissions happen in cities, millions of people are exposed to harmful pollution.
The map above (from Google and air quality data company Aclima) shows how concentrated some pollutants can become around our busiest streets and freeways. This type of pollution is closely correlated to health challenges like asthma and hospitalizations for stroke and heart failure, according to Environmental Defense Fund and the Alameda County Public Health Department.
With so many new electric cars gliding down our freeways, you would think these pollution numbers would be falling fast, but there still aren’t enough electric cars to make a difference in the quality of the air we breathe, especially in cities. Despite many years of generous subsidies from the State of California and the federal government, electric cars are still too expensive for most people to afford, and even the people who can afford them can’t necessarily find a place to park them and charge them in the city.
Fortunately, there is a new form of electric transportation that is getting people out of their polluting cars and still getting them where they need to go: Micromobility. These shared, electric micro vehicles, like scooters, electric bikes, and mopeds, can be rented with an app in cities throughout California for just a few dollars per ride. They can be picked up on the street and left at your destination for the next rider to use without your having to return it to where you rented it from. And since most of the journeys Californians take, especially in cities, are just a few miles or less, people are choosing micromobility instead of taking their own car or a taxi or an Uber. And not just a few people. These little EVs are so easy and fun to use that they are one of the fastest adopted new forms of transportation EVER.
That’s great news for our cities, and great news for California, where the companies that invented this new way of getting around are mostly based and growing fast. We should be looking forward to much cleaner, greener cities from San Diego to Sacramento.
But there is a big question about the future of micromobility in California’s cities: Will the State of California support it?
The State of California has been a leader in electric cars for many years, allocating billions of dollars to making electric cars more widely available and affordable and requiring carmakers who sell cars in the state to sell a certain number of electric vehicles.
With the data we have now showing that in a city, a ride on a micro EV is often a substitute for a ride in a full-sized car, the State of California should support California’s cities, citizens, and companies that want to adopt micromobility by applying the same leadership and resources the state applied to electric cars. There is no faster way to get people using zero-emission mobility than by accelerating the deployment of micromobility. With the challenges of air-quality-related health problems in our cities, and the threat that emissions pose to our global climate, we need the solutions that can be most widely adopted as quickly as possible, with the full support of our government.
If California extends its leadership in electric mobility to this next-generation technology, millions of Californians will benefit immediately from better, greener, more affordable transportation options, and all Californians will benefit from the cleaner air they will breathe the next time they step outside to enjoy their lives in this beautiful state we call home.
Featured image: Scoot electric scooter in Barcelona. Photo by Kyle Field | CleanTechnica.