The rapid proliferation of e-scooters (electric scooters) in recent years on U.S. roads and sidewalks has brought about a number of welcome changes, from increasing exercise opportunities and positive impacts on the environment and the economy, to better options for getting around more easily and inexpensively.
But along with these benefits come notable safety challenges, and work must be done to address regulatory, infrastructure and educational deficiencies that are putting riders at risk.
Those are some of the main highlights of a new report, E-scooter Safety: Issues and Solutions, released earlier this month by the Transportation Research Board (TRB), intended to help navigate safety issues.
The new resource identifies emerging behavioral safety issues arising from the expanding use of e-scooters and discusses what cities are doing to prevent and mitigate injuries.
“E-scooters, which were a novelty just a few years ago, are here to stay,” Jonathan Adkins, executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), said in a statement.“They are not cost prohibitive for personal use, and scooter-share systems are expanding or launching in more cities every year.”
According to federal data, the TRB report said, there were at least 158 U.S. cities with e-scooter systems as of July 2022, nearly double the 87 systems in operation in 2019. Last year these systems generated 52 million e-scooter trips, up more than 50% from 2020, the North American Bikeshare and Scootershare Association reported, adding that personal ownership of e-scooters is also growing and is projected to increase throughout this decade.
The report discusses safety trends among e-scooter users and markets, and the relationship between e-scooter crashes, injuries and fatalities, as well as behavioral and environmental contributing factors. It also summarizes what some cities are doing to support, manage and regulate the use of e-scooters to prevent and mitigate injuries, and includes real-world case studies, according to the GHSA, a nonprofit organization representing state highway safety offices.
But the report found that data and research evaluating e-scooter safety “are lagging behind the rapid adoption and expansion of this form of transportation,” known as micro mobility.
Research for the report was coordinated by the Behavioral Transportation Safety Cooperative Research Program, a collaboration between the TRB, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the GHSA. The program conducts research to increase understanding of behavioral traffic safety topics and propose practical solutions.
The findings of the recent TRB report are similar to a GHSA from 2020, Understanding and Tackling Micromobility: Transportation’s New Disruptor, the safety association said, which identified challenges posed by the rapid growth in micro mobility that has “resulted in a patchwork approach to safety that does little to protect” vulnerable road users.
Factors cited that are essential to combat unsafe behavior include:
– explicit regulations, which vary in states and localities, making it difficult for the public to know what is permitted and what law enforcement officials can address;
– effective education to communicate regulations and safety information;
– better data collection, as micro mobility-involved crashes and injuries are under reported due to the lack of a universal reporting standard; and
– separate, protected, infrastructure.
“Everyone deserves to feel safe on the road, and we must do more to prioritize safety for this growing mode of travel,” Adkins, of the GHSA, added.
To read the full report, click here.