Should We Really be Calling it “Micro”mobility?

Chessin Gertler
2 min readMar 8, 2024

(Re)branding the Future of Transportation

So much of the terminology surrounding social and environmental movements forms in reaction to the phenomena being combatted. The terms “Micromobility,” the “Tiny-House Movement,” and “Slow Food,” for example, embody notions of smallness and slowness - reactions to oversized, inefficient vehicles and dwellings, Industrialized food processes, respectively, and their negative environmental and health consequences. I’ll argue that these labels, on their own, are misleading — or at least don’t do justice to the importance of the concepts they represent — and in many ways put the movements behind them at a disadvantage in terms of how they are disseminated into the world.

The scooters, bicycles and e-bikes that embody “micromobility” are not “micro” in any way. Rather, they are characterized by appropriate, efficient and contextual use cases; suitable for the tasks and journeys they serve — particularly as compared with large cars and SUVs when used for the same short, single-person, small-load needs. “Micro” evokes sentiments of weakness, fragility and inadequacy when the idea of “micromobility” should evoke efficiency, empowerment and sentiments of being particularly well-suited to the needs it serves.

Horace Dediu’s intentions when he coined the term, “Micromobility” were spot-on and the effect that his work and the framework for understanding that it has created continues to have on increasing awareness of the contradictions and inefficiencies rampant in personal transportation in contemporary cities is extraordinary. That being said, we need to develop terminology that is not reactionary but rather embodies the critical importance of this transportation mode-shift in building a sustainable urban future.

I haven’t come up with a better way to brand “micromobility” yet but as the underlying technology, urban infrastructure, legal framework, and social acceptance of evolving modes of personal transportation grows more sophisticated, the terminology we use to depict it must follow suit. In celebration of the liberating effect that bicycles had on women in the 19th century, Susan B. Anthony labeled them the “freedom machine.” Hundreds of years later, we continue to discover and rediscover the power this beautiful invention — and now, its expanded electrified family — has to shape the course of humanity, the built environment, and the future we choose for ourselves.

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Chessin Gertler

Founder @ Slé - movewithsle.com | Tech futures in mobility, sport, and the human experience …and sometimes just stories about my dog and riding my bike