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Do e-scooters and bikes share similar risks?

Based on internal and independent third party data, a research report on e-scooter safety by Bird suggests that e-scooters have a similar injury rate to bicycling.

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e-scooters need sensible regulation and safe operational parameters, says report
e-scooters need sensible regulation and safe operational parameters, says report

e-Scooters and bicycles share similar risks and vulnerabilities, finds a new report on scooter safety by Scooter-sharing company Bird.

 

A Look at e-Scooter Safety: Examining Risks, Reviewing Responsibilities and Prioritising Prevention was prepared under the guidance of, and with input from, David Strickland, former administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Chair of Bird’s Global Safety Advisory Board.

 

It analysed internal Bird data as well as information available via third parties to produce an analysis of the safety of shared e-scooters.

 

Equitable and sustainable

 

In the introduction of the report, Strickland writes that “with sensible regulation and safe operational parameters”, e-scooter sharing can live up to its demonstrated ability to provide a more “equitable, sustainable, and convenient way to meet the urban travel demands of today”.

 

Key findings of the report include:

 

e-Scooters and bicycles have similar risks and vulnerabilities: both Bird’s internal data and independent research suggest an injury rate that is similar to bicycling.

 

Replacing car trips can help increase safety for all road users: cars killed more than 6,000 pedestrians in the US in 2018 alone.

 

Data across cities indicates that e-scooters are replacing a significant portion of car trips. On average, 30 per cent of Bird trips are trips that would have otherwise been taken by car.

 

Bike lanes boost safety for all: Bird’s rider surveys uncover a strong demand for wide and more protected bike lanes.

 

Experience from several cities shows that bike lanes and other Vision Zero-related infrastructure investments effectively reduce the crash risk for all road users.

 

The report also identifies areas for future research, and, to further lower crash risk, recommends additional investment in proven safety infrastructure improvements and policies that encourage the documented “safety in numbers” phenomenon, whereby growing ridership heightens motorist sensitivity and lowers crash rates.

 

"The most impactful thing cities can do to improve safety for all vulnerable road users— e-scooter riders, bicyclists and pedestrians alike— is to invest in more safe infrastructure”

 

“Bird has a shared priority with cities on road safety and the safety of our communities,” said Paul Steely White, director of safety policy and advocacy at Bird. “Our research aligns with recent studies from cities showing that scooters are about as safe as bikes; replacing car trips with more scooter trips can help reduce the most serious crashes; and the most impactful thing cities can do to improve safety for all vulnerable road users— e-scooter riders, bicyclists and pedestrians alike— is to invest in more safe infrastructure.”

 

The report offers, five safety steps for cities:

  • Design safer streets: the majority of fatalities and severe injuries sustained by vulnerable road users (VRUs) are caused by motor vehicle impacts.
  • Maintain safe street conditions: smooth streets play a key role in crash prevention.
  • Reduce car and truck speeds: vehicular speeding is a leading cause of death and injury on urban streets
  • Reduce car trips: the biggest threat, by far, to pedestrians and other VRUs comes from cars and trucks
  • Unlock safety in numbers and the ‘virtuous cycle’ of safety: policies that increase the number of pedestrians, e-scooter riders, or cyclists increase the individual safety of walking and e-scooting and bicycling, while policies that suppress ridership increase danger.

Not everyone agrees, though, that scooters and bikes have similar risks. Emily Castor Warren, venture partner at venture capital and private equity firm, Fontinalis Partners, and whose former roles include senior director of policy and public affairs at Lime and head of autonomous urban mobility at the World Economic Forum, tweeted that "It is not credible to conclude scooters are as safe or safer than bicycles based on raw incidents” as what matters are rates per mile.

 

 

She continued: “Scooter usage is still tiny relative to all cycling; incidents could be much lower for scooters even if the per-mile rate is much higher.

 

Warren also tweeted that the industry needs technical standards “informed by empirical research to set the bar for safe scooters”.

 

 

She agreed with the report that city infrastructure improvements are critical to scooter safety. “But right now I believe the designs of most scooters are less resilient than bikes to suboptimal infrastructure (pavement quality etc). Companies can help fix that," she said.

 

 

The full report can be found here: A Look at e-Scooter Safety: Examining Risks, Reviewing Responsibilities and Prioritising Prevention.

 

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