A new study by the International Transport Forum examines safety aspects associated with e-scooters and other micro-vehicles.
Existing urban traffic patterns are being challenged by a new phenomenon: Micromobility – the electric scooters, e-bikes, motorised skateboards and other light personal mobility devices that have become hugely popular, along with traditional bicycles, for short trips.
But is micromobility safe ? A new report published by the International Transport Forum finds that:
- E-scooter riders do not face significantly higher risk of road traffic death or injury than cyclists.
- Motor vehicles are involved in 80% of fatal crashes with e-scooters and bicycles.
- Traffic will be safer if e-scooter and bicycle trips replace travel by car or motorcycle.
- The fast-paced evolution of micro-vehicles challenges governments to put in place safety regulations that are future-proof.
How can authorities help ensure that micro-vehicle riders and pedesrians will not become crash victims?
The report offers ten recommendations for policy makers, city planners, operators and manufacturers:
1. Allocate protected space for micromobility
Create a protected and connected network for micromobility. This can be done by calming traffic or by creating dedicated spaces. Micro-vehicles should be banned from sidewalks or subject to a low, enforced speed limit.
2. To make micromobility safe, focus on motor vehicles
The novelty of e-scooters should not distract from addressing the risk motor vehicles pose for all other road users. Where vulnerable road users share space with motor vehicles, speed limits should be 30 km/h or less.
3. Regulate low-speed micro-vehicles as bicycles
Micromobility can make urban travel more sustainable. To prevent over-regulation, low-speed micro-vehicles such as e-scooters and e-bikes should be treated as bicycles. Faster micro-vehicles should be regulated as mopeds.
4. Collect data on micro-vehicle trips and crashes
Little is known about micro-vehicles’ safety performance. Police and hospitals should collect accurate crash data. Road safety agencies should collect trip data via operators, travel surveys and on-street observation. The statistical codification of vehicle types must be updated and harmonised.
5. Proactively manage the safety performance of street networks
Many shared micro-vehicles posess motion sensors and GPS. These can yield useful data on potholes, falls and near crashes. Authorities and operators should collaborate to use them for monitoring and maintenance.
6. Include micromobility in training for road users
Training for car, bus and truck drivers to avoid crashes with micro-vehicle riders should be mandatory. Cycle training should be part of the school curriculum. Training programmes should be regularly evaluated and revised.
7. Tackle drunk driving and speeding across all vehicle types
Governments should define and enforce limits on speed, alcohol and drug use among all traffic participants. This includes motor vehicle drivers and micromobility users.
8. Eliminate incentives for micromobility riders to speed
Operators of shared micromobility fleets should ensure their pricing mechanisms do not encourage riders to take risks. By-the-minute rental can be an incentive to speed or to ignore traffic rules.
9. Improve micro-vehicle design
Manufacturers should enhance stability and road grip. Solutions could be found in pneumatic tyres, larger wheel size and frame geometry. Indicator lights could be made mandatory and brake cables better protected.
10. Reduce wider risks associated with shared micromobility operations
The use of vans for re-positioning or re-charging micro-vehicles should be minimised, as they impose additional risks on all road users. Cities should allocate parking space for micro-vehicles close to bays for support vans.