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E-scooter safety put under the spotlight


21 February 2020

E-scooters should not be permitted on footways unless subject to a low enforced speed limit, says a report prepared under the auspices of the International Transport Forum (ITF). 

E-scooters are currently illegal on public roads but the Government is preparing a consultation about allowing their use. 

The new report on micromobility safety has been prepared by members of the ITF’s corporate partnership board, including e-scooter rental firm Bird.  

“The use of micro-vehicles on sidewalks should be banned or subject to a low, enforced speed limit,” it says. “Authorities should create a protected and connected network for micromobility, either by calming traffic or redistributing space to physically protected lanes for micro-vehicles. 

“Speed limits for all motor vehicles should be no higher than 30 km/h where motorised vehicles and vulnerable road users share the same space.” 

Micromobility hire schemes should not encourage risk taking. “By-the-minute rental can be an incentive to speed or to ignore traffic rules,” it says. “Companies should therefore reduce minute-based charging and compensate with alternatives. These could include a fixed-amount trip charge, a distance-based charge, or a membership fee.” 

To improve safety, regulators should consider imposing indicator lights on powered micro-vehicles, controlled by switches on the handlebar.

“The safety performance of e-scooters in comparison with other transport modes remains a topic where evidence is weak,” it says.  It cites surveys indicating between 78 and 100 e-scooter  fatalities per billion trips. “Cycling risk across cities ranges between 21 and 257 fatalities per billion trips,” though cycle trips are generally longer.  

E-scooter injury rates range from 87 to 251 emergency department visits per million trips, with around one in ten requiring hospital admission. The 2009 cycling injury rate in the United States can be estimated at 110 to 180 emergency department visits per million trips.  

Studies suggest e-scooter riders are less likely than cyclists to wear a helmet. Studies show helmet use ranging from 0.5 per cent to 25 per cent, and averaging four per cent. Helmet use levels are lower for hire schemes than privately-owned vehicles. 

The ITF is part of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

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