Kymone Freeman with WeAct Radio speaks at GGWash's transportation equity event in June. Image by George Kevin Jordan.

Over the past year or so dockless bicycles and scooters have cropped up all over the District, though they tend to concentrate downtown. How could these “micromobility” services make it easier for residents to get around in historically underinvested areas? One company has some ideas.

On June 3, GGWash joined We Act Radio to host a panel discussion on transportation equity east of the Anacostia River. Panelists from the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) as well as local community organizations discussed both the manifestations of inequality and the steps the city can take to make Wards 7 and 8 safer and more convenient for people walking, bicycling, scooting, or riding transit.

You can watch a full video of the event online. Thank you to our sponsors Lyft, Bird, Lime, and Uber for making this event possible.

Then on Wednesday, June 19, Maurice Henderson, Director of Government Partnerships at dockless e-scooter company Bird, joined We Act Radio co-founder Kymone Freeman to discuss how the city’s design and policies impact transportation equity, and the role of micromobility services like scooters.

Bird wants to reduce car traffic and carbon emissions, Henderson says. People use the scooters to make shorter trips, and also to get to and from Metro and bus stops for longer ones. In a recent study, the company found that a third of its trips (and dockless scooter and bicycle trips in general) are to and from transit stops.

“One of the things we’re trying to do is reduce congestion and reduce mobility challenges…for people who are living in transportation deserts,” Henderson said. “We’re trying to meet people where they are, in terms of the resources and accomodations they have a their disposal. We’re trying to work with transit authorities like WMATA to ensure that the trips to and from transit are things that are as seamless and as frictionless as possible.”

Part of this includes providing vehicles for people with different needs: Bird plans to release a two-seater “cruiser” electric bicycle so people can travel together, as well as a three-wheeled, seated version designed for people with certain disabilities to use.

It also means making its services accessible to lower-income people without a data plan. To that end, the company has a lower-cost option called ‘Bird Access’ that is accessible by SMS.

“This is really revolutionizing the way that people get around what we call the ‘built environment,’” Henderson said. “Structurally, cities aren’t going to change much in the next several years, and probably decades, so we have to find ways to move people more efficiently, and hopefully more safely.”

Henderson said that when cities try to cap the number of dockless vehicles allowed, it makes it more difficult for companies to provide low-cost options because they’re forced to drive business to the spots where it’s most profitable.

“What we’d like to see, and some cities are already taking advantage of this, is an option for us to deploy more scooters into areas where the city would like to offer more employment and economic opportunity, and for us, we’d like to see those Birds not counted against the limit,” Henderson said.

Freeman and Henderson also discussed adding bike lanes to make streets safer for more vulnerable road users, and much more. You can listen to the entire conversation below.