E-scooters (electric scooters) are becoming more popular around the world, as people seek alternatives to travelling by car to reduce carbon emissions, have better mobility around congested cities and save money.
Despite looking much like a standard two-wheeled scooter, e-scooters have been fitted with batteries to make them electrified and have varying speed limits, with trial e-scooters limited to 15.5mph.
E-scooter rental trials are running in some areas in the UK, in which riders over the age of 16 who have a full or provisional driving licence can hire e-scooters for use on the road. It is illegal to ride an e-scooter on the pavement. In areas not covered by one of the trials, e-scooters can only be ridden on private land with the landowner’s permission.
Despite the benefits their use brings, an estimated 1,500 people in the USA have sustained an e-scooter-related injury and since late 2017, eight people there have died while riding a “sharing scheme” e-scooter. One e-scooter death has been recorded in London. More UK data should start to emerge through the rental trials.
How can e-scooters be ridden safely?
In countries where e-scooters are already used widely, various approaches are being taken to address safety, including encouraging users to ride e-scooters safely and wear a helmet, introducing a minimum age for users and restricting the use of e-scooters to cycle lanes and roads.
In the UK, RoSPA advocates that e-scooter providers and local authorities involved in the rental trials should implement robust systems that swiftly identify when accidents and incidents have occurred. This is important to enable any issues, such as damaged or misplaced e-scooters, to be rectified quickly, and will also contribute to our collective understanding of e-scooter usage and incidents.
Providers and councils also need to recognise and minimise the opportunity for e-scooter users to misuse and ignore practical standards in the current trials. Good discipline by riders now will create a culture of good user behaviour in the future, and training opportunities for e-scooter riders are an important part of this, along with an encouragement that riders wear helmets.
Geofencing (putting a virtual perimeter around a real-world location) and identifying and preventing pavement riding are absolutely critical in the trials, to ensure that e-scooters are used and parked in a safe and responsible way. Trial operators must ensure that accurate plans and routes are created and implemented consistently for e-scooters, paying particular attention to low-speed zones and exclusion areas.