Exploring the Role of Micromobility as Part of Disaster Response and Recovery

Research Team: Dillon Fitch (lead) and Miguel Jaller

UC Campus(es): UC Davis

Problem Statement: Communities in California face significant environmental hazards that threaten people's lives and properties, including wildfires, earthquakes, tsunamis, flash floods, and other emergencies. Transportation plays a vital role during and after these events. In the response phase, transportation systems and resources enable evacuations from risk areas. In the recovery phase, resources and humanitarian aid are distributed to affected areas, assisting in more rapid recovery in communities. While light-duty vehicles support most mobility in Californians’ daily lives, several disadvantages exist for emergency situations. First, light-duty vehicles can cause congestion that delays the evacuation and the recovery processes. Second, road damage caused by hazards can dramatically decrease road capacity and connectivity. Finally, not all Californians have access to a vehicle. To overcome these challenges, well-planned strategies that enable safe and reliable transportation of people and goods across more flexible modes, such as micromobility, will be critical. In disasters, micromobility (e.g., bikes, e-bikes, scooters, and skateboards) may offer unique benefits since the mode is flexible (e.g., enabling off-road riding, avoiding congestion), low in energy needs (e.g., requiring little to no fuel), and equitable (e.g., costing little to own, operate, and maintain). Recent disasters have showcased these benefits, such as congestion avoidance using e-scooter/mopeds (evacuation of 2018 Sulawesi earthquake and tsunami) and resource distribution using bicycles and cargo bikes (recovery of the 2018 Mexico City Earthquake).

Project Description: The research team investigates the potential role bicycles and micromobility in facilitating (or limiting) disaster response and recovery. Given the lack of exploration on the topic, the researchers convened an online workshop where they conducted brainstorming and focus group discussions with disaster experts from various government agencies, not-for- profit organizations, academia, and policy groups. The research team presents a synthesis of that discussion, along with a review of the existing literature. They conclude there is strong potential for bicycles and micromobility for different disaster phases, hazard types, and groups of people. However, multiple barriers exist related to implementation and safety, suggesting a need for future research and policy in the transportation and emergency management fields and practices.

Status: Completed

Budget: $25,155

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