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Micro-mobility company launches research fund for use of e-scooters

Research will focus on the various safety aspects of e-scooter use as well as rider travel behaviour and the challenges and opportunities of the integration of e-scooters within a city.

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Milton Keynes rolled out a trial with Spin earlier this year and will feature in the research
Milton Keynes rolled out a trial with Spin earlier this year and will feature in the research

E-scooter firm Spin has committed £100,000 towards independent research in the UK to advance micro-mobility policy frameworks and promote rider safety.

 

The Micro-mobility Research Fund will support researchers from 10 leading universities in the UK and US and a number of experts in the international mobility ecosystem.

 

Researchers will study various safety aspects of e-scooter use as well as rider travel behaviour and the challenges and opportunities of the integration of e-scooters within a city’s road systems and existing public transport networks.

 

Travel behaviour

 

The Ford-owned micro-mobility company said safe travel behaviour will be at the centre of research topics and will build on Spin’s research-based policy work developed in the US over the past two years.

 

“Our top priority has always been rider safety. All operators have a responsibility to their riders to not only exceed vehicle safety standards but provide a platform to educate riders on safety best practices and how to be mindful of pedestrians and other road users,” said Josh Johnson, public policy manager at Spin.

 

Preparation for the first piece of research is underway in Milton Keynes with potential to extend it to other cities, including London once the e-scooter trial kicks off in the capital. The study will explore factors that influence road-user safety seeking answers to questions such as:

  • Where do e-scooter users ride most often (cycle lane, roadway, pavement) and why?
  • How often do safety incidents occur, and what are common factors?
  • What factors or conditions (cycling infrastructure, weather, traffic volume) impact real or perceived safety of e-scooters for users and for non-users?

The study will be informed by a diverse set of data sources including qualitative and quantitative consumer survey data and on-street artificial intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT) sensor data of e-scooter interactions with pedestrians, cyclists and cars captured by Vivacity Lab’s sensors that are installed in the city. The researchers will have access to anonymised e-scooter movement data (GPS) as well.

“All operators have a responsibility to their riders to not only exceed vehicle safety standards but provide a platform to educate riders on safety best practices”

Vivacity’s roadside sensors employ machine learning algorithms to detect near-miss incidents and are able to analyse movement patterns of vulnerable road-users such as cyclists and pedestrians, as well as non-connected vehicles.

 

Such data will be invaluable to assess why near-misses may happen and what could be possibly done to minimise them. All data shared by the sensors is anonymised with video feeds discarded at source, enabling safer roads without intruding on privacy.

 

“The willingness to share independent research and learnings about the adoption of e-scooters with key stakeholders has become less of a priority for operators and this needs to change,” said Johnson. “Spin is committed to improving and advancing micro-mobility policy frameworks globally in the markets we operate in.

 

“These studies will give everyone fresh and actionable insights. We look forward to sharing best practices with stakeholders in the UK and beyond around how to best integrate e-scooters into local transport networks while maximising safety of all road users and provide communities with a green, fun and socially distanced way to travel.”

 

The research may include outputs such as a mapping of so-called safe routes based on riding patterns and user feedback, and recommendations on how local authorities and operators could encourage riders towards a safer use of e-scooters. Recommendations may also include infrastructure improvements or other policy changes to enhance roadway safety for all users.

 

“Milton Keynes has been a leader in transport innovation for some time, and we are delighted that the first piece of independent research supported by the Micro-mobility Research Fund will be taking place here, with leading academics and cutting-edge industry partners,” added Brian Matthews, head of transport innovation, Milton Keynes Council.

 

Wider global relevance

 

Spin also intends to provide policy and regulatory recommendations in parallel to the UK’s Department for Transport’s (DfT) nationwide evaluation of the trials. Spin will share its findings with the DfT but research is expected to have relevance beyond the UK trials for other cities and e-scooter operators globally.

 

Roger Woodman, assistant professor of human factors, University of Warwick, and one of the partners in the project, said that ultimately, the point of introducing e-scooter schemes is to advance our society and to bring a greater benefit to all, not just to the e-scooter riders and the service providers but to all who live in our towns and cities.

 

He continued: “Just as with many new services, this will require a rethink from everyone, including the general public and stakeholders and the path may not always be straightforward. I’m confident that building a strong body of independent research will allow policy-makers, e-scooter advocates, as well as sceptics, to advance the dialogue and put forward legislation that best supports everyone.”

 

Other UK universities and colleges involved include: University of Westminster; University of Newcastle; University College London; University of Leeds; University College Londo;, University of Leeds; Virginia Tech; University of Tennessee-Knoxville; TREC Portland State Universit;, University of California-Davis; and University of Minnesota.

 

Organisations in the mobility ecosystem taking part include: Campaign for Better Transport; Ford Motor Company; Numo; National League of Cities; and Populus.

 

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