The electric nature of micromobility: Outdoor trails to urban/suburban riding

Micromobility — electric bikes, scooters, skateboards, unicycles — is exploding across urban and suburban areas while also building rapidly at outdoor sites and trails.

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A Vintage Tracker is a showpiece at Electric Movement, new e-mobility store in Old Town.

A Vintage Tracker is a showpiece at Electric Movement, new e-mobility store in Old Town.

Dale Bowman

Traffic sounds from North Avenue near 5 p.m. wafted through the open door of Electric Movement last week. A young delivery man dozed on the couch by the door while his e-bike was worked on in back.

Paul Rosenfeld nodded knowingly to me as a man brought in an online purchase to be assembled and made functional. That’s one niche filled by Electric Movement.

In back Cody Kent, head technician, rewired an e-scooter.

“Without Cody, I can tell you unequivocally this person would have to throw the scooter out and buy a new one,” Rosenfeld said.

Kent lost me a sentence in as he explained what he was doing, “So it’ll cause the whole system to spin and it’ll twist up this cord. It’ll break it. So what you have to do is snip the cord off, take the old one out. You can see it got twisted up and it broke, so I took this one out.

“I’m putting a new cord through it and I’m actually adding some new connectors. It used to have these connectors here, but what we’re going to do is add these waterproof connectors. It essentially gathers all of these together into one little connector so you can just pop it in and pop it out. You don’t have to worry about, you know, soldering anything any of that extra stuff. So we’re streamlining it, making it safer and making it work again.”

Cody Kent, head tech at Electric Movement, takes a break from working on an e-scooter to explain what he was doing. Credit: Dale Bowman

Cody Kent, head tech at Electric Movement, takes a break from working on an e-scooter to explain what he was doing.

Dale Bowman

Micromobility is a rapidly expanding world of electric bikes, scooters, skateboards and unicycles.

Electric Movement, an e-mobility store in Old Town that opened in April at North Orleans Street and North Avenue, fits right in.

Paul Rosenfeld, owner of Electric Movement, explaining a fat-tire e-bike.

Paul Rosenfeld, owner of Electric Movement, explaining a fat-tire e-bike.

Dale Bowman

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration “broadly defines micromobility as any small, low-speed, human- or electric-powered transportation device, including bicycles, scooters, electric-assist bicycles, electric scooters (e-scooters), and other small, lightweight, wheeled conveyances.”

Electric conveyances are on an absurd rise. The sign of that most jarred me was when Amish kids whizzed past on e-scooters while I visited my Dad in Pennsylvania.

Electric bikes and scooters blew up at the cooling lakes where dozens of anglers use them on the miles of shoreline at LaSalle or Braidwood lakes.

Electric bikes and scooters are making major inroads on the outdoors market, as shown on opening day in 2022 at LaSalle Lake where dozens were in use on the shoreline. Credit: Dale Bowman

Electric bikes and scooters are making major inroads on the outdoors market, as shown on opening day in 2022 at LaSalle Lake where dozens were in use on the shoreline.

Dale Bowman

The explosion is particularly notable in urban areas, even leading to intense competition among rental companies.

Rosenfeld, 47th Ward committeeperson, is an apostle of the revolution.

“I really believe that we need micromobility in our city because it solves a bunch of problems that we have, near gridlock and traffic congestion,” he said. “We have environmental toxins that are going out because of the cars. It’ll help reduce those and it helps reduce carbon-emitting automobiles on the road. We’re not going to eliminate cars trips, but if we can reduce them even 15 or 20% with micromobility, you’re solving a ton of trouble.”

Rosenfeld said most of his business is in e-bikes, followed by e-scooters, e-skateboards and finally e-unicycles. He offers e-bikes from less than a $1,000 to topping $7,000.

I’ve been considering and renting e-bikes for two years.

“The first thing you do is try to find how are they planning on using your bike,” he said. “Are you commuting for work? Are you using it to take the kids to daycare? Are you using it for the outdoors, because you’ll be going to be out on trails? So we’re trying to find the right bike for the right person, what’s going to work for them. Once they tell us what they’re looking for, then we have a variety of prices and ranges.”

Mine will have split purposes: Reducing small trips to the grocery or library; and outdoors activities on trails or getting around at LaSalle.

A Mokwheel e-bike that Paul Rosenfeld recommended for the dual purposes I have for an e-bike.

A Mokwheel e-bike that Paul Rosenfeld recommended for the dual purposes I have for an e-bike.

Dale Bowman

Rosenfeld suggested a mid-priced (less than $2,000 on sale) Moktrack Scoria.

The glamour bike on a pedestal in Electric Movement is the Vintage Tracker ($5,400).

Rosenfeld had me test drive the Scoria. He said a helmet and a phone stand are essential (“I’m doing business while I am driving”).

When we returned, Ian Eubanks, electrical engineer from UIC — ”He’s our Scottie Pippen who can do a little bit of everything” — checked and adjusted our bikes before putting them back on the floor. Jihad House is the store manager.

“We have been embraced,” Rosenfeld said. “This is the place to get things, get accessories and we offer problem solving for people.”

Soon a sign on the building with a counter will show how many car rides were saved by Electric Movement.

“We need to continue to move people toward micromobility, we’re trying to be part of it,” he said.

More information is at electricmovementchicago.com.

Electric Movement, sales and shop for electric bikes, scooters and unicycles at the corner of New Orleans and North, where Flat Top once was.

Electric Movement, sales and shop for electric bikes, scooters and unicycles at the corner of New Orleans and North, where Flat Top once was.

Dale Bowman

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