Micromobility, defined as light transportation modes like e-scooters and e-bikes, has boomed. In fact, shared e-scooter and bicycle trips doubled in the last year, reaching 84 million trips in the U.S. alone. Major companies are also enjoying this growth with Lime and Bird being two of the market’s leaders. But increasingly, significant concerns about electric scooter safety are emerging. And pressures facing these businesses are rising as cities seek to restrict their services.
The introduction of these micromobility services is welcomed in many ways. Naturally, these micromobility transportation modes offer a way for urban environments to reduce automotive congestion and pollution. Likewise, these trends offer opportunities to enhance urban communities. However, recent publicity over injuries and even fatalities are highlighting the need for greater electric scooter safety measures. And unless micromobility companies become proactive, they may soon find their opportunities for growth severely restricted.
Taking a Closer Look at Electric Scooter Safety Issues
Recent media reports have a way of calling attention to evolving problems. This case has certainly been particularly true regarding electric scooter safety concerns. In recent weeks, YouTube star Emily Hartridge, a fitness and mental health advocate, was killed on an e-scooter in Britain. In Nashville, a 26-year-old man was similarly killed in an e-scooter incident. And emergency room visits for e-scooter injuries are on the rise—being 50 times more common than bicycle incidents. All of these has served to attract policymakers’ and the public’s attention regarding micromobility trends.
Nonetheless, while these developments are quite worrisome, some perspective is needed. Since 2017, a total of eight fatalities have been reported from e-scooter use. Electric scooter safety data also show that for every 100,000 trips, only 20 injuries occur. In contrast, over 40,000 Americans are killed in automobile accidents each year with 4 million injured. Yet, electric scooter safety is vastly getting more attention. Presumably, this fact relates to the novelty of these micromobility options and the underlying presumption that it should be safer.
In assessing the cause of micromobility accidents and injuries, all stakeholders share responsibility. Electric scooter safety analyses have found that operators, riders and cities are all equally to blame. Specifically, lack of helmet use, user inexperience, and poorly planned rollouts by micromobility companies account for some issues. Likewise, lack of protected micromobility lanes and poor road infrastructures are similarly culpable. Still, that doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone is being held accountable for these e-scooter safety developments.
Cities Are Pushing for Greater E-Scooter Safety
Across the country, cities are beginning to take aggressive stances regarding electric scooter safety measures. San Francisco has begun limiting the number of micromobility operators who can service the city. Texas is considering a statewide moratorium against shared micromobility offerings. Moreover recently, Nashville’s mayor attempted to ban all e-scooters, which the city council preempted after a heavy debate on the matter. Rather than investing in infrastructures and education, cities are preferentially choosing to attack micromobility businesses.
Perhaps one of the more aggressive stances against micromobility shared services is being proposed by Washington, D.C. In the pursuit of greater electric scooter safety, an Electric Mobility device Amendment Act of 2019 has been proposed. The legislation requires micromobility operators to maintain an active toll-free phone line for reporting illegally parked e-vehicles. Likewise, the companies must remove vehicles within 3 hours and restrict the time of usage from 4 a.m. to 10 p.m. only. The amendment also requires these companies to provide the Department of Transportation with data and to be subject to fines for noncompliance. Generally, these are providing incentives for companies to be proactive in their electric scooter safety efforts.
E-Scooter Safety Efforts by Micromobility Companies
Given recent developments, both companies Bird and Lime have taken electric scooter safety measures into their own hands. Over a year ago, Bird created its Global Safety Advisory Board, initially led by the former National Highway Traffic Safety director. Similarly, Bird also recently launched its “s.h.a.r.e. Safe Streets tour” program. This program will provide virtual reality and in-person safety training to micromobility riders. Also, Bird donates thousands of helmets for rider use each year.
Similarly, Lime has followed suit with its own electric scooter safety efforts. The company just announced its Public Policy and Safety Advisory Board to aid with e-scooter safety measures. In addition to policy research and regulatory advisement, the board also hopes to partner with cities regarding micromobility trends. The company has also donated over 250,000 helmets and invested $3 million in rider education. Thus, Lime hopes to approach electric scooter safety in a broader and more comprehensive sense as a result.
Envisioning a Better Urban Environment
Without question, micromobility options provide urban environments with tremendous transportation opportunities. These involve not only reducing carbon footprints but likewise enhancing access to city activities and venues. Such solutions also reduce traffic congestion. And despite recent publicity, they have the potential to reduce human injury and fatalities significantly. However, in order to realize this potential, electric scooter safety and other micromobility solutions are needed.
For now, micromobility companies are being singled out to address these concerns or be penalized. But ultimately, operators, cities and riders alike will share these responsibilities in time.