If you think, at all, about how you get around — your modes of transportation and mobility for work and recreation — you likely consider cost, convenience and ease of use.
But do you think about fun?
Karly Nygaard-Petersen does, and she believes fun may be the secret sauce behind a burgeoning use of escooters to travel for work, play and more.
A doctoral candidate in Royal Roads University’s Doctor of Business Administration program, Nygaard-Petersen is using her thesis research into escooter adoption to support municipalities and operators of bike and scooter share programs to better understand consumer behaviours and decisions related to mobility. The goal is to better integrate shared escooters into transportation systems across North America.
And in conducting her research — which has involved interviewing escooter users and others, and even riding with them — “I kept hearing people say things like, ‘That was so much fun. I feel like a kid again.’”
In fact, she notes that 100 per cent of study participants ranked fun as an important part of their escooter experience, suggesting fun as a factor in consumer adoption should be taken more seriously.
“I found it interesting that fun was unanimous among participants when many other aspects of the experience were mixed,” she says, adding that “seemed very atypical for how people would typically describe getting around.”
Nygaard-Petersen, who previously earned a Master of Business Administration at RRU, likely enjoys a unique perspective on the topic among students and researchers as her day job is British Columbia Automobile Association (BCAA) senior marketing manager for Evo Car Share and automotive service centres. That work has taken her to international events such as the Micromobility America and Micromobility Europe, where experts shared their own experiences supporting her doctorial findings.
“Some of the industry leaders in micromobility were saying it’s cheaper, it’s more environmentally friendly — there are all these reasons to adopt scooters — but people are going to do it because it’s more fun, it feels better.”
That doesn’t mean escooters are a slam dunk for adoption. The 20-year BCAA employee says that as more cities across B.C. have been added to a provincial scooter pilot program, for instance, civic officials have found the issue can be polarizing among community members, even as they “navigate how to best offer zero-emission transportation options in support of their climate goals and objectives to develop healthier cities.”
That polarization is often found between those who’ve tried escooters and those who haven’t, but Nygaard-Petersen says she believes cities will overcome such issues and adopt the use of escooters and other forms of micromobility, including ebike sharing services. Challenges remain, however, including weather and whether norms around cycling, such as use of hand signals, can and should be applied to escooter riders.
In addition, she says, “Other people also learning to share the road” is essential, as is greater protected transportation infrastructure for walkers, cyclists and scooter riders to achieve low- to no-carbon mobility goals.
Still, Nygaard-Petersen says that while her research focuses on and promotes shared micromobility services, it also notes something else: Propelled by the fun and ease of riding such escooters for the first time, many users may soon buy their own.
Award makes doctoral dreams come true
Nygaard-Petersen was the recipient of a doctoral Entrance Award of $10,000 per year for each of the first two years and says it was life-changing.
“For me, it was a big deal,” she says. “It was the difference between doing this or not.
“The number one consideration was financial. It was not, ‘Can I do this? Do I have the right ideas. Do I have what it takes?’ It was, ‘Do I have the means to be able to do it?’”
She says she has encouraged former MBA classmates to apply for awards and scholarships to make their doctoral dreams come true.