The Impermanence of Modes
3 min read
Ever since the idea of micromobility emerged, its justifications have increased and expanded. The initial logic, stemming from before the word even existed, was that microvehicles are more economical and more accessible. The bike is cheaper; the shared bike is "always with you." The convenience a
For our next "thesis" we will propose a new theme: The Impermanence of Modes

Micromobility encapsulates the emergence of a vast new set of form factors which resist being bundled into modes the same way as cats resist being herded. From one to two to three to four wheels, from e-bikes, which defy categorization, to new hybrid alternatives for cargo, delivery, leisure, utility, and even passenger transport. Such variety makes the point that micromobility isn't so much about what it is but what it isn't.

But more than this, we need to understand that what is today fixed as automobility was once emergent and is as fragile as any modes which came before it—the horse, the canal barge, and the locomotive. The impermanence of modes is illustrated when one form of transport is replaced by something else—not necessarily something better. The train was (and is) better at some tasks than the car, but it was displaced because cars enabled something new. Certainly micromobility could do the same.

So how does this transformation happen? Where does substitution of something "less good" take root? When? By whom? That's the trillion-dollar question.

One possibility site of disruption is the low-end customer, what Clay Christensen called "the rebar of society." The teenagers who took to listening to rock-n-roll on portable radios out of earshot of their parents, thus ushering in the…
Horace Dediu
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