Electric scooters deemed to be as safe as cycle journeys
Electric scooters are no more dangerous to riders than bicycles, a comprehensive study into their use has found.
Research by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) suggests that journeys made by cars or motorcycles in dense urban areas are “much more likely” to result in the death of a road user than trips made by an e-scooter or any other kind of “micro-vehicle”.
However, while the shift from motor vehicles towards e-scooters could make urban environments safer for road users and pedestrians, switching from walking to e-scooters would have the opposite effect.
“The very limited available data reveals similarities and differences between e-scooters and bicycles in terms of risks,” the report’s authors wrote. “A road fatality is not significantly more likely when using a shared standing e-scooter rather than a bicycle.”
E-scooters have become a common sight across the world but have proved controversial if they are used on pavements, in cycle lanes and on roads.
In the UK, the Government is consulting over whether to legalise the scooters, which are currently only legally allowed on private land – although this has not prevented their widespread use in urban areas.
E-scooters fall within the definition of a motor vehicle, and subsequently are subject to the same MOT, tax, licensing, construction and use requirements as cars or motorbikes.
Since the design of e-scooters makes these rules almost impossible to comply with, they are illegal by default.
Concerns for urban areas
Lime, Bird and Voi are among the companies vying to be the first to launch shared scooters in London, with US-based firm Bird the first to trial a fleet of 50 vehicles in London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park at the end of 2018.
Concerns over the safety of the vehicles on public roads represents a significant obstacle to their roll-out in the UK, despite their enormous popularity in the US and across Europe.
There are also fears their availability will discourage people from walking short distances and contribute to greater levels of obesity, alongside concerns poor security protocols could lead to scooters being hacked and personal user information being stolen.
The latest report from the OECD’s International Transport Forum recommends a number of safety measures to protect pedestrians and drivers alike, including regulating low-speed scooters and electric bikes in the same way as bicycles and higher-speed micro-vehicles as mopeds.
Data collection on crashes and journeys and the introduction of micromobility training for road users could also aid greater understanding of why accidents happen and how to prevent them.
“E-scooter safety, in particular, is likely to improve once users learn to navigate urban traffic and car drivers become accustomed to novel forms of mobility,” the authors added.
“Safety will also improve as governments put in place safe cycling infrastructure and targeted safety regulations for micro-vehicles and shared mobility operations.”
Transport for London (TfL) has said it was aware of 10 serious injuries and 21 slight injuries involving e-scooters in 2019.
The International Transport Forum’s e-scooter report contains a number of safety recommendations to safely introduce the vehicles into urban areas.
The measures include restricting e-scooters use from pavements to prioritise pedestrian safety, as the number of people walking is likely to decline when they do not feel safe. ”
Authorities should create a protected and connected network for micromobility, either by calming traffic or by redistributing space to physically protected lanes for micro-vehicles,” the report suggested, adding that collecting data on the safety performance of scooters, including crashes, should be a priority for road safety agencies in preventing future issues.
Other proposals include defining and enforcing limits on speed and alcohol and drug use among all traffic participants, including car drivers and scooter users, and improving the design of scooters to enhance stability and their grip on the road.
“Governments should also monitor damage to the road network, improving preventive maintenance to quickly repair potholes and other damage that create risks for users of micro-vehicles,” it added.