Electric scooters, e-bikes, motorized skateboards and other light personal mobility devices are everywhere on sidewalks and streets in towns and cities around the globe these days. Do these popular micro-vehicles provide a robust and viable option for the future of mobility, or are they safety risks on wheels?

A new report published by the International Transport Forum (ITF), a Paris-based intergovernmental organization with 60 member countries within the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), found that motor vehicles are involved in 80% of fatal crashes with e-scooters and bicycles. 

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

“Safe Micromobility” examined how the rapid proliferation of micro-vehicles could be safely integrated into existing urban traffic patterns to help ensure that micro-vehicle riders and pedestrians would not become crash victims.

The study considered a range of factors, including street layout, vehicle design and operation, user education and enforcement. It was released 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 about 140 countries organized by the Swedish Government and the World Health Organization.

Here are some additional findings from the study:

  • E-scooter riders do not face significantly higher risk of road traffic death or injury than cyclists.
  • 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 safety regulations in place that take into account the future of all mobility.

“Street design must also serve the safety of those using micro-vehicles,” Santacreu added. Making it safe creates an opportunity of “shaping a sustainable urban mobility landscape.” 

The report offers ten recommendations to help policy makers, city 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 by creating dedicated spaces. Micro-vehicles should be banned from sidewalks or subject to a low, enforced speed limit.

2.   Focus on motor vehicles

The novelty of e-scooters should not distract from addressing the risk motor vehicles pose for all other road users. When micromobilty riders, pedestrians and bicyclists share space with motor vehicles, speed limits should be 30 km (about 18 to 19 miles) per hour or less.

3.   Regulate speed

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

4.   Collect data 

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

5.   Manage the safety performance of street networks

Many shared micro-vehicles possess motion sensors and GPS, which can yield useful data on potholes, falls and near crashes. Authorities and operators should proactively collaborate to use them for monitoring and maintenance.

6.   Implement widespread training

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 programs should be regularly evaluated and revised.

7.   Tackle drunk driving and speeding

Governments should define and enforce limits on speed, alcohol and drug use among all traffic participants, including micromobility users.

8.   Eliminate incentives for riders to speed

Operators of shared micromobility fleets should ensure their pricing mechanisms do not encourage riders to take risks. By-the-minute rental, for example, can be an incentive to speed or to ignore traffic rules.

9.   Improve design

Micro-vehicles manufacturers should enhance stability and road grip by addressing tire type, wheel size and frame geometry. Indicator lights could be mandatory and brake cables better protected.

10. Reduce wider risks associated with shared operations

The use of vans for re-positioning or re-charging micro-vehicles should be minimized, as they impose additional risks for  all road users. Cities should allocate parking space for micro-vehicles close to bays for support vans.

Participating companies 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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