Electric Scooters and Electric Bikes – The Future of Mobility or Safety Risks on the Wheels?

Electric scooters, e-bikes, motorized skateboards, and other lightweight personal mobility devices are ubiquitous on sidewalks and streets in cities around the world these days. Do these popular micro-vehicles offer a robust and viable option for the future of mobility, or are they a safety risk on wheels?

A new report published by the International Transport Forum (ITF), an intergovernmental organization based in Paris with 60 member countries within the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), examined how the rapid proliferation of micro-vehicles could be safely integrated into existing urban traffic patterns to help ensure that micro-vehicle drivers and pedestrians do not become victims of accidents.

“Innovation in micromobility may lead to new crash risks,” said Alexandre Santacreu, road safety policy analyst for the ITF and lead author of the report, in a video statement. “But if we understand these risks, we can address them.”

“Safe micromobility”Found that motor vehicles are involved in 80% of fatal accidents with electric scooters and bicycles.

The study, which considered a range of factors including street layout, vehicle design and operation, user education, risk of injury and law enforcement, was published during the 3rd Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety in Stockholm, Sweden, earlier this month, a gathering of government officials, including transport and health ministers, and road safety groups and experts from around 140 countries organized by the Swedish government and the World Health Organization.

(A glossary containing both terms and visuals details the language and definitions generally understood for different types of vehicles.)

Here are some additional results of the study:

  • Electric scooter riders do not face a significantly higher risk of death or injury on the roads than cyclists.
  • Traffic will be safer if electric scooter and bicycle trips replace trips by car or motorbike.
  • The rapid evolution of micro-vehicles challenges governments to put in place safety regulations that take into account the future of all mobility.

“Street planning should also serve the safety of micro-vehicle users,” added Santacreu. Making it safe creates an opportunity to “shape a landscape of sustainable urban mobility”.

The report proposes ten recommendations to help policymakers, town planners, administrators, operators and manufacturers ensure the protection and well-being of all.

1. Allocate protected space

Design a protected and connected network for micromobility by calming traffic or creating dedicated spaces. Micro-vehicles should be banned on sidewalks or subject to low and enforced speed limits.

2. Focus on motor vehicles

The novelty of electric scooters should not obscure the risk that motor vehicles represent for all other road users. When micromobility drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists share space with motor vehicles, speed limits should be 30 km (about 18 to 19 miles) per hour or less.

3. Regulate the speed

To avoid over-regulation, low-speed micro-vehicles like electric scooters and e-bikes should be treated like bicycles. Faster micro-vehicles should be regulated like mopeds.

4. Collect data

Little is known about the safety performance of micro-vehicles. Police and hospitals should collect accurate accident data and road safety agencies should collect travel data via operators, travel surveys and street observation.

5. Manage the security performance of road networks

Many shared micro-vehicles have motion sensors and GPS, which can provide useful data on potholes, falls, and near misses. Authorities and operators must proactively collaborate to use them for monitoring and maintenance.

6. Implement generalized training

Training of car, bus and truck drivers to avoid collisions with micro-vehicle drivers should be mandatory; cycle training should be part of the school curriculum. Training programs should be regularly evaluated and revised.

7. Fight drunk driving and speeding

Governments should set and enforce speed, alcohol and drug use limits for all traffic participants, including micromobility users.

8. Eliminate incentives for runners to speed up

Operators of shared micromobility fleets must ensure that their pricing mechanisms do not encourage users to take risks. Renting by the minute, for example, can be an incentive to speed up or ignore traffic rules.

9. Improve the design

Micro-vehicle manufacturers should improve stability and road grip by considering tire type, wheel size and frame geometry. Warning lights could be mandatory and brake cables better protected.

10. Reduce the broader risks associated with shared operations

The use of vans for repositioning or recharging micro-vehicles should be kept to a minimum, as they impose additional risks on all road users. Cities should allocate parking spaces for micro-vehicles near bays for assistance vans.

The companies participating in this project were Bird, Bosch, Grin, Incheon Airport, Kapsch TrafficCom AG, Michelin, PTV Group, Toyota and Uber.

To read the full report, click here.

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