Evaluation of E-Scooter Trials – Safety is a Big Issue

There have been many reports of fatal or serious accidents involving e-scooter riders. Are they safe or provide other benefits to offset the risks to users and to pedestrians with whom they often collide?

There have been a number of Government sponsored trials of e-scooters which are subject to specific regulations imposed on users and on the providers. There has recently been a report on the trials published by Arup (see link below) which answers some of the questions that might be asked. But it does not cover the widespread illegal use of e-scooters which are ridden recklessly, including on pavements and without the speed limit imposed on trial users, by people not registered in such trials.

The Arup report notes that based on their surveys of users e-scooters have acted as a mode of transport in-between walking and cycling in terms of average trip distance. In fact there was a large diversion from “active” travel modes of walking and cycling to e-scooter user and relatively less from private car use.

Based on analysis of STATS19 data the casualty rate is about 3 times that of pedal cyclists. That may be due to the relative inexperience of the users of e-scooters but the users also perceived them as less safe and 63% reported injuries which is a very high number.  PACTS have reported 15 deaths to date involving e-scooters and a large number of accidents involve no other parties,

One objective of the trials was “to increase the availability of low-carbon transport options” but promoting cycling or walking appear to be safer options.

There are a number of interesting detail comments from users reported in the survey. Potholes and uneven road surfaces were a common problem while technical problems such as limited battery life were frequent complaints.

In summary the Arup report provides some interesting data but it is certainly not clear that the environmental benefits offset the negative safety aspects of e-scooters. Just like the more active promotion of cycling is leading to more road casualties, so will the use of e-scooters.

Moving people from walking will provide negative health benefits and it is not at all clear that there are other significant benefits provided by e-scooters. The Government must surely look at much tighter regulation or outright bans – particularly of unregistered users – if e-scooters are to be allowed.

Arup Report: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-evaluation-of-e-scooter-trials-report

Roger Lawson

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