Earth Day 2020: Micromobility will get a kick-start in Vancouver from pandemic—with long-lasting effects

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      A former Vancouver director of planning says that fears about the coronavirus—even after the pandemic ends—should lead to a rethink of public spaces.

      Brent Toderian told the Straight by phone that this may even cause some municipalities to repatriate parts of the road network.

      This would facilitate the creation of wider sidewalks to enable more physical distance between pedestrians.

      Toderian is an avid supporter of public transit. And here, he suggested that transportation planners will make adjustments to create more space between passengers.

      But he also also predicted that once the pandemic subsides, the automobile industry will exploit transit riders' fears about COVID-19 to try to move more cars and SUVs off their lots.

      “There will be deliberate vilifying of public transit for market advantage,” Toderian said. “People should be watchful for that.”

      While this is occurring, he anticipates an expansion of “micromobility”.

      By that, he meant greater use of electric skateboards, escooters, and ebikes.

      “There’s always the question about whether they are replacing car trips or if they are replacing walking trips,” Toderian explained. “If it’s the latter, it’s worse. If it’s the former, it’s better.”

      The Solo zero-emission electric vehicle has three wheels and enough room for the driver.

      Zero-emission vehicles come in different shapes

      Toderian's comments led us to think about environmentally friendly transportation alternatives in the lead-up to Earth Day (April 22).

      It's especially relevant this week after TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond announced that the regional transportation authority is losing $75 million per month.

      One of the flashier new zero-emission electric vehicles developed in Vancouver is the Solo, which appears on the cover of this week’s Straight.

      Manufactured in China by Vancouver-based ElectraMeccanica, it only has room for the driver and comes with a suggested retail price of US$18,500.

      With two front wheels a one rear wheel, it’s classified as a three-wheeled vehicle by Transport Canada.

      According to the company, it goes from zero to 95 kilometres per hour in approximately eight seconds.

      The company has showrooms in Vancouver and Los Angeles and 64 prototypes have been built as of March 15, but it’s still not possible to buy the Solo.

      ElectraMeccanica posted a loss of $30.6 million last year as it tries to find a foothold in the rapidly growing EV market.

      “To sell our vehicles as envisioned, we will need to enter into certain additional agreements and arrangements that are not currently in place,” the company states in a filing to securities regulators.

      Modo has two hydrogen-powered Hyundai Nexos in its fleet.

      If you want to try a zero-emission hydrogen-powered car, however, that is possible in Vancouver.

      Modo has two Hyundai NEXO fuel-cell electric vehicles in its fleet.

      That made it the first car-sharing company in North America to offer this to its members.

      Another unusual electric vehicle, which also appears on this week’s cover of the Straight, is the Passion Motorbike Factory’s Scoobic Light.

      With an ability to carry 400 kilograms, this three-wheeled electric-powered moped reaches 45 kilometres per hour and has a range of 100 kilometres.

      The Scoobic Light is a three-wheeled electric transport vehicle that carries a decent payload.

      It’s manufactured in Spain and is being marketed locally by Motorino Electric.

      Motorino owner Steve Miloshev told the Straight by phone that the Scoobic Light is ideal for courier companies and for short deliveries of products from warehouses.

      “This is a very efficient vehicle,” he said. “It’s a fraction of the weight of a car, so you’re not wasting that much energy.”

      For transit users who might be spooked by the pandemic, there’s no shortage of electric-assist bikes on the market.

      But before putting your money down, it’s best to check the ICBC website for the rules of the road.

      The Crown insurer defines ebikes as “a two- or three-wheeled cycle with a seat, pedals and an electric motor (up to 500 watts)”.

      “Gas-powered cycles and electric cycles without attached pedals do not qualify as an electric motor-assisted cycle and will not pass a provincial motor vehicle inspection that would enable them to meet registration, licensing and insurance requirements for on-road use,” ICBC cautions.

      A cargo basket in the front and a long rear rack are characteristics of the Magnum Payload ebike.
      Magnum Bikes

      One of the more intriguing ebikes is the Magnum Payload.

      Described as “Your Cargo Buddy” by the Vancouver retailer Cit-E-Cycles, the Magnum Payload has a long rear rack and a front cargo basket, ideal for transporting everything from groceries to small pieces of furniture.

      For those living in small spaces, the Tern ebike is a practical alternative. It's easy to ride and it’s shorter than regular bikes.

      It can be folded into a flat package in 15 seconds and is available at several ebike retailers.

      Check out this short video showing how the Tern BYB can be folded up and covered up in a pouch.

      One of the most informative ebike primers can be found on the Reckless Bike Stores website.

      If you don’t know the difference between a hub motor ebike and a mid-drive motor ebike, you’ll find out at

      This video shows how the Tern works well for those living in small spaces.