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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Crossing Lights Permanently at Red, No TfL Settlement, Electric Boris Bikes and E-Scooter Trials

Green Lights for Pedestrians

Transport for London (TfL) have announced their latest attack on vehicle users. A number of light-controlled pedestrian crossings are being changed so that they are permanently set at red for vehicles. Pedestrians will see a permanent green signal until a vehicle approaches when it might then change to red. But how soon? And won’t it encourage drivers to ignore the red lights they see when there is obviously no pedestrian waiting to cross?

This change will be made to 18 pedestrian crossings, initially in Tower Hamlets, Newham, Hounslow, Richmond and Hillingdon. The justification is that locations of high pedestrian flow require such a change. See Reference 1 below for the TfL press release.

No TfL Settlement

It seems the Government has not responded to Sadiq Khan’s 115-page document based on what was said at the Mayor’s Question Time. The existing temporary funding settlement to keep TfL afloat expires today (28th May). The Mayor said there has been “no engagement” on the Mayor’s proposals which include giving the Mayor power over Vehicle Excise Duty and imposing a charge to drive into the outer London boroughs. The latter is strongly opposed by the Conservatives who dominate in the outer London boroughs and the surrounding shires and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has opposed both ideas.

Comment: It seems we edge even closer to the Government taking control of TfL, as they should do, as a settlement of this problem seems increasingly unlikely. TfL and the Mayor seem to be like most socialists – namely unable to plan for budgets that enable them to live within their means without raising more taxes. They will keep spending until the Government tells them to stop.

Electric Boris Bikes

Santander is to extend their sponsorship of TfL’s flagship cycle hire scheme until 2025 and the scheme’s first e-bikes will be rolled out in summer next year. It will be expanded to cover new parts of the city and there will be a permanent discount for NHS staff. There were a record number of hires in the past year. See Reference 2 for the TfL press release.

What are the finances of the Santander bike hire scheme and what are Santander contributing? The press release is remarkably silent on the costs and income. But this is what Wikipedia say on the figures in 2016: “TfL funded a net £3.6 million to the scheme in the 2016/17 period during which ~10 million bikes were hired, this equates to 16.9% of the scheme’s operating costs being funded by subsidy this is on par with TfL’s operating costs as a whole”. It appears that TfL are therefore massively subsidising the scheme and Santander are simply paying for the advertising of their name. Expanding the scheme will drive TfL even further into deficit however worthy it might be to get more people cycling.

E-Scooters Trial

TfL have also announced that a trial of E-Scooters will commence in London on the 7th June. The operators will be Dott, Lime and Tier. They will be limited to 12.5 mph, must have lights and audible warning signals.

They will only be allowed to be used on roads and in cycleways, which is the only legal use permitted by any e-scooter but this law is of course regularly ignored by e-cycle users and the police do not have the resources to enforce the law. So they are regularly ridden on pavements.

They are also regularly abandoned on pavements which causes problems for disabled people.

Comment: E-Scooters are positively dangerous to pedestrians when ridden on pavements, and are also dangerous to the e-scooter riders as they are less conspicuous to drivers of vehicles than cyclists.

We will await the outcome of the trials but from the evidence seen to date they do not appear to be safe.

All pedestrians who see cyclists or e-scooter riders on the pavement should tell them to get off, and stand in their way until they do. They might then get the message!

Reference 1: Pedestrian Priority: https://tinyurl.com/37k66bvn

Reference 2: Cycle Hire Scheme:  https://tinyurl.com/fdzwae2v

Reference 3: E-Scooter Trials: https://tinyurl.com/vxbsarwt

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E-Scooters May Be Permitted on Roads

E-ScooterBoth the Times and Daily Mail have run stories that the Government may permit electric scooters to be used on both roads and cycle paths. At present they are illegal except on private land. E-scooters can travel at up to 30 mph although there is a suggestion that they might be legally limited to 15 mph. The Government is intending to undertake a public consultation on the subject in the near future.

Comment: There certainly needs to be some regulations put in place about their use and to clarify the law. At present the fact that they are currently illegal to use on roads or pavements is widely ignored in London. There has already been one death to an E-Scooter rider in London (Emily Hartridge last year), and in those countries/cities where they have proliferated there are numerous injury accidents – for example there were 1,500 injuries involving them in the USA in 2018 and there have been several deaths in Paris.

As a frequent pedestrian in London this writer is already concerned about the number of cyclists who ride on the pavement. They can come up on you from behind silently and at speed and who wants to be hit by anyone or anything travelling at 15 mph or faster without warning? The elderly are particularly vulnerable as they can have bones broken or other injuries from which they cannot easily recover. This is a frequent complaint from pedestrians in central London who attend consultative meetings.

Mixing e-scooters with traffic might be dangerous as many riders do not wear crash helmets. But perhaps it’s no more dangerous than cyclists? However it surely would be a good idea to require licensing and insurance of all electrically assisted vehicles – both e-scooters and e-cycles. This would at least help to ensure reasonable standards of behaviour from such vehicle users.

Mixing e-scooters with pedestrians on pavements where the speed differential is so large is surely dangerous unless they were limited to 7 or 8 mph, but allowing them in cycle lanes should be acceptable even if cyclists may not be too keen on the idea.

There is also a question of whether e-scooters meet a need that is not currently satisfied. Users of e-scooters often use them for commuting quite long distances (many can do 20-mile trips or even longer before expiring). They can be cheaper than cycles, certainly than e-bikes, and are obviously easier to store as they take up much less space. So they do provide a very low cost option as an alternative to cycles or using public transport.

One aspect to bear in mind is that where they are permitted there are rental companies set up who offer a pick-up and drop-off anywhere service. This has meant that they get abandoned all over the place and have become somewhat of a public nuisance. This area would certainly need specific regulation.

What do readers think? You will be able to give your views to the public consultation no doubt but post your comments below if you have any.

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E-Scooters and E-Bikes – Should They Be Regulated?

Lime E-Bike

Last week saw the report of the first death in London of a rider of an E-Scooter. Emily Hartridge, television presenter and YouTube blogger, died after being hit by a lorry in Battersea. These “vehicles” are actually illegal in the UK whether ridden on the pavement or on the road so are effectively useless other than on private land. The Government is to remind retailers of the devices that they need to tell purchasers of that fact as they are becoming a growing menace in central London.

However, there are calls for them to be regulated even though they have caused many difficulties in cities such as Paris not just on safety grounds but because many simply get abandoned on the streets, often in inconvenient or obstructive locations.

Another vehicle growing in popularity are e-bikes with more than one company providing “dockless” rental bikes (as opposed to the “docked Boris-bikes run by TfL). One operator is Lime who have recently opened a scheme in the London Borough of Bromley and they are also operating in Brent and Ealing. They are the bright green bikes you now see left on the streets of those boroughs, waiting for people to rent them. Incidentally Lime also rent e-Scooters in Paris so if they became legal to use on London’s roads then they may be expected to start up similar operations here.

What are the road safety concerns about e-scooters and e-bikes. For e-scooters they are potentially a risk to the users as they offer no protection to the rider from hitting vehicles as few users bother with crash helmets. In addition and because of the speed they travel, they are a risk to pedestrians. The first they know about it is the impact because they are silent and can hit you from behind without warning.

Indeed many pedestrians have the same concerns about bicycles being ridden on pavements in London and electric cycles are particularly dangerous as they can go at higher speeds.

Comment: Certainly regulations need to be established and enforced and consideration needs to be given to whether riders of such vehicles (including cycles) should need to be licensed and required to have insurance. In the meantime, if you see people riding either e-scooters or bikes on the pavement you should tell them to get off it as I do regularly. And in the case of e-scooter riders you should tell them they are illegal altogether.

Roger Lawson

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