‘We had to switch from a rapid expansion approach’: Tier’s Fred Jones on the current state of micromobility

Shared transport operators have had to rapidly shift their focus in the past year. Tier’s regional general manager for Northern Europe, Fred Jones, explains

What are the latest developments for Tier? 

It has been an exciting time at Tier over the last few months! We recently acquired Nextbike (now called Nextbike by Tier) which operates docked bike schemes globally, and means, for example, we run schemes in Glasgow, Cardiff and Belfast.

Fred Jones of Tier

In April, we launched our first fully integrated Nextbike by Tier and Tier system in Limerick, with our unique multi-modal offering making the difference in a competitive tender process. Users are able to pick Tier dockless e-bikes or Nextbike by Tier docked push bikes through a single app. We also have an integrated system in Navan which incorporates e-cargo bikes as well. 

The benefit of this is we are able to offer micromobility at a range of price points and we can cover a broader range of journey times, all of which helps us encourage people to leave their cars at home, especially for shorter local journeys. 

On the technology perspective, we are in the process of retrofitting a new computer module, called ‘Parrot’ to our existing e-scooter fleet across the UK. The new module is capable of pavement and tandem riding detection, helping us tackle anti-social riding behaviour. It is the first time in the industry these new safety features have gone from small scale pilots to be being able to be provided on an entire fleet in an economically sustainable way and by giving our e-scooters new brains we are able to keep using the same hardware for an extra three to five years, which improves the lifetime sustainability of our vehicles too! 

How has the shared transport market changed in the past year? 

The biggest change in the last year has been as a result of the changing economic environment. We have had to switch from a rapid expansion approach to one focused on getting to profitability more quickly, and that has been the case for all operators.  

We are also in a period where the original tenders to provide e-scooter and e-bike services in the UK are coming up for renewal, which has been a time where the industry has had to prove its ability to deliver mode shift away from cars and operate safe and sustainable services. The fact that the vast majority of towns and cities are choosing to re-tender is a sign that shared micromobility is proving to be a beneficial addition to people’s lives, reducing traffic and helping reduce local air pollution.  

What future developments do you see for the micromobility industry? 

Given the need to focus on profitability across the industry we expect to see a period of consolidation. We are already seeing some of the smaller operators merging and we expect that trend to continue. 

An emerging trend amongst local authorities is a desire to offer multi-modal micromobility services. Rather than just offering e-scooter or just e-bikes, local authorities are recognising that a combination of vehicles, both docked and dockless, can be tailored to suit their specific needs. 

Tier has been in the UK over eight years and operates four of the five longest-serving schemes, so we are well-placed to adapt to these changes and continue to be the partner of choice for cities to help them drive the shift to sustainable transport.

Can you tell us a bit more about the referendum in Paris, what it means or Tier and the wider industry?

We’ve had a bit of time to digest the results of the Paris referendum by now and to understand what happened and why. The way the referendum was run didn’t allow for the voice of all Parisians to be heard and arguably it was set up to fail the industry and e-scooter users from the outset. Only 100,000 people voted, in a city of 2 million with 3.5 million daily commuters, amongst which 400,000 people have been using e-scooters every day in the city. There was no online option to vote and the voting took place on the busy weekend of the Paris Marathon with polling stations only available in very few locations. Wait times to vote were extremely high, all of which came together to mobilise a small but strongly motivated minority of the Parisian public, who wanted to halt a popular, sustainable form of transport. 

The vote only concerned shared e-scooters in Paris itself. We will continue to operate e-bikes in the city, which is a silver lining and we continue to operate e-scooters in over 80 towns and cities in the Paris region. However, we do foresee an increase in car usage as a knock on effect, something Paris has successfully been working towards reducing.   

Furthermore private e-scooters continue to be legal to ride in the city which means that many of the complaints residents in Paris had with anti-social riding behaviour such as pavement, tandem and drink riding will continue. 

Paris was an early adopter of shared micromobility and initially faced some issues due to a lack of regulation. At one point there were 15 operators in the city! We won a quality-based tender in 2020 and with thoughtful regulation use of the service flourished. With the city not renewing the shared e-scooter contracts we can’t help but feel this is a backwards step, especially against the backdrop of other major European cities choosing to re-tender. 

Looking at the broader impact, happily the factors behind the outcome of the vote have been understood. We have good relationships with the towns and cities we operate in and while we aren’t able to please everyone, we work hard to ensure our e-scooters are integrated successfully and unobtrusively into the urban landscape while providing a useful service to the public. 

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Personally, it has highlighted the importance for us to remind people why we are doing this. Our aim is to enable people to make more journeys without their car, whether that’s popping to the shops, commuting or getting to the train station. In fact one in four journeys taken on our vehicles is made in combination with another form of transport. 

What future developments can we expect from Tier?

With Nextbike by Tier fully integrated into Tier we are now able to deliver the next-generation of complete and integrated solutions for cities looking to encourage people to adopt micromobility and move away from car dependency. We can offer any combination of parking models, from docked through to dockless, and a full range of vehicles from push bikes and e-bikes to e-scooter and e-cargo bikes. A lot of people don’t see an alternative to their cars, and we can provide a realistic alternative for most urban journeys. 

However, all of our efforts can only be so effective if there isn’t widespread, sensible infrastructure built for bikes, e-scooters and cargo bikes for people and businesses to use. Our aims, to reduce car usage and improve cycling infrastructure are the same as the bike industry at large. With more people using bikes and e-scooters, the need for that infrastructure becomes more apparent and together we are able to apply even more pressure on governments to build on the work they have done so far and accelerate the changes that are still desperately needed. 

Tier Mobility, based in Germany, provides people with shared e-scooter, e-bike and pedal bike services. Following the recent acquisitions of Nextbike and Spin, Tier is now present in more than 500 cities and communities in 31 countries with a fleet of more than 350,000 vehicles. Tier’s investors include SoftBank Vision Fund 2, Mubadala Capital, Northzone, Goodwater Capital and White Star Capital.  

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