National Academies Press: OpenBook

E-Scooter Safety Toolbox (2023)

Chapter: Chapter 2 - Fundamental Concepts

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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 2 - Fundamental Concepts." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. E-Scooter Safety Toolbox. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27253.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 2 - Fundamental Concepts." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. E-Scooter Safety Toolbox. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27253.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 2 - Fundamental Concepts." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. E-Scooter Safety Toolbox. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27253.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 2 - Fundamental Concepts." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. E-Scooter Safety Toolbox. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27253.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 2 - Fundamental Concepts." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. E-Scooter Safety Toolbox. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27253.
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2 Fundamental Concepts What Is an E-Scooter? While legal definitions vary across regions, this Toolbox defines an e-scooter as a two- or three-wheeled device powered by an electric motor, consisting of a platform between the front and rear wheels that the rider stands on (and in some cases a seat that the rider sits on) and a steering column with handlebars that allow the rider to steer, accelerate, and brake. In contrast to electric bicycles and mopeds, e-scooters do not have pedals. Most do have front and rear lights as well as reflective elements to support nighttime usage. An e-scooter is a form of powered micromobility, a class of small transportation devices used for personal transport or goods delivery (see Figure 1). E-scooters, both sitting and standing types, are typically low speed (max speed of 30 mph/48 km/h or less), light weight (200 lbs/45.4 kg or less), and partially or fully motorized (usually by an electric motor). They can be part of a shared fleet (e.g., rideshare program) or individually owned. They also may be referred to as personal transportation devices. Standing e-scooters have a floorboard but no operable pedals; their curb weight is 40 pounds and top speed is 18 mph. Seated e-scooters have a seat and a floorboard but no operable pedals; their curb weight is 190 pounds, and their top speed is 30 mph. By contrast, motorcycles may weigh 250 pounds or more and travel well above 30 mph; motorcycles are not considered to be a class of micromobility vehicle and are typically regulated by departments of motor vehicles. In many places, e-scooters are an established part of a first–last mile transit solution, whereby they are intended to support riders’ access to and/or from a transit stop or station. E-scooter acceptance on transit is jurisdiction dependent and may depend on the device type. For example, personally owned e-scooters, especially if they are a folding type, are often allowed on transit systems, like bikes and e-bikes. In some cases, rented e-scooters may be required to be parked at stations adjacent to transit locations rather than allowed on the system. C H A P T E R 2 There are myriad discrepancies in laws pertaining to e-scooters, and how e-scooters are defined and regulated. For a comprehensive review of state and local regulations, see the report How and Where Should I Ride This Thing? “Rules Of the Road” for Personal Transportation Devices (Fang et al. 2019).

Fundamental Concepts 3   What Are Key E-Scooter User Characteristics? While e-scooter riders often share the same spaces as pedestrians and bicyclists on the road and may have some similar characteristics and safety needs, there are important differences (Table 1). See Chapters 2 and 3 in BTSCRP Web-Only Document 5 for additional background on e-scooter safety issues, injury patterns, and crash contexts. What Is the Safe System Approach? According to the FHWA, the Safe System approach (Figure 2) aims to eliminate fatal and serious injuries for all road users through a holistic view of the road system that anticipates human needs and performance limitations and manages kinetic energy transfer to levels that the human body can tolerate (Doctor and Ngo 2022). With respect to e-scooter transportation, the Safe System approach acknowledges that: • E-scooter-related fatalities are unacceptable. Many e-scooter fatalities have occurred since e-scooters were introduced widely in the United States. These deaths are unacceptable and proactive efforts to prevent severe and fatal injuries are critically needed. • Humans make mistakes, have limitations, and are vulnerable. E-scooter riders have few available protections from the energy forces produced by larger and heavier vehicles with which they share roadway space. As e-scooters remain a relatively recent technology, many riders lack experience and may be prone to error while riding. Safety management practices must anticipate and accommodate human behaviors and limitations to help avoid serious and fatal injuries. • Redundancy is critical and responsibility is shared by system designers. Risk reduction involves all parts of the system working together so that if one element fails, others are in place to reduce harm. In the case of e-scooters, system designers and managers include e-scooter program operators and staff responsible for: developing micromobility regulations and poli- cies; overseeing operator compliance; planning and designing transportation facilities; leading community outreach and engagement; training drivers and e-scooter users; and collecting data on road user interactions, travel patterns and behaviors, perceptions of safety, and risk. Each has a role to play in developing, implementing, and evaluating safety efforts and coordinating with other partners in the system. CLASS 3 PEDAL ASSIST (PEDALEC) AT HIGHER SPEED ELECTRIC STANDING OR SITTING SCOOTERS (E-SCOOTERS) ELECTRIC BICYCLES (E-BIKES) CLASS 1 PEDAL ASSIST (PEDALEC) CLASS 2 THROTTLE ASSIST OTHER Figure 1. E-scooters operate as a subclass of micromobility devices. Source: Graham Russell, adapted from Sandt (2019) and SAE (2019).

4 E-Scooter Safety Toolbox See Table 3 for example safety measures related to the five safety elements of a Safe System. The promising practice example in Chapter 3 shows how to frame safety communications that speak to Safe System principles. What Is Transportation Equity? Transportation equity requires racial, economic, and social equity for people who use, benefit from, pay for, and decide on transportation investment decisions (Golub et al. 2019; Rubin 2009). An equitable transportation system ensures safe, sustainable, and convenient options for all. Equity principles should be considered within the context of micromobility and support for micromobility in cities and towns. E-scooters have the potential to provide a new travel option that increases and improves access to opportunities, goods, and services for all people. People within the communities need E-scooter Riders Pedestrians Bicycle and E-bike Riders Demo- graphics Slightly more males than females (though variable by location); majority of shared e-scooter users are between the ages of 18-35 years old; skew white and middle-income. More females than males; all ages and income levels. Many more male riders than female riders; average age is slightly older than e-scooter riders; rider incomes vary, but many are higher income. Speed range Riding speed can be limited by policy or geographic location; range from 10-15 mph. Walking speed is typically 3.5 ft/sec or 2 mph; may be slower for pedestrians with disabilities. Ranges from 8-13 mph for traditional bikes and 10-15 mph for e-bikes; may be slower for those using adaptive bikes. Travel behaviors and equipment use Seasonal ridership similar to bicycles; helmet use is lower for e-scooters than for bicyclists; more likely to be using shared devices than owned devices, in comparison to bicycles. More likely to be accessing transit than e- scooter or bicycle modes. Similar to e-scooter riders, though less nighttime ridership and longer average trip length. Impairment patterns About 6% of non-fatally injured e-scooter riders were reported as being alcohol or drug impaired. Of the 69 known e- scooter fatalities (from 2017- 2022) in the United States, an estimated 4% involved reportedly impaired riders, another 4% were ruled to have not involved impairment, and the remaining cases were unknown or missing impairment data (Cherry et al. 2022). In 2020, about 10% of non-fatally injured pedestrians and 31% of fatally injured pedestrians were reported as being alcohol or drug impaired. 16% of drivers involved in pedestrian crashes were impaired, not counting hit and run incidents where driver condition was unknown (NCSA 2022). In 2019, about 6.5% of non- fatally injured bicyclists and 20% of fatally injured bicyclists (involved in motor vehicle crashes, only) were reported as being alcohol or drug impaired. Around 12% of drivers involved in bicycle crashes were impaired, not counting hit and run incidents where driver condition is unknown (NCSA 2021). Facility preferences Prefer separated bike facilities over sidewalks when available. Prefer sidewalks when provided the option. Prefer separated bike facilities when provided the option. Injury profile More falls and fewer motor vehicle involved crashes than other modes. May be more vulnerable to roadway surface irregularities than bicycles. Hardware failure and rider inexperience are also factors. Data on falls and crashes with modes other than drivers are lacking, but most fatal injuries involve a motor vehicle. Data on falls are lacking, but most fatal injuries involve a motor vehicle. Currently little ability to differentiate between bicycle and e-bike riders in police crash data. Table 1. Comparison of e-scooter riders with pedestrians and bicyclists.

Fundamental Concepts 5   R ED U N D A N CY IS C RU CI AL • DE ATH /SER IOUS INJURY IS UNACCEPTABLE • HUM ANS M A KE M ISTA K ES •• SA FETY IS PROACTIVE • RESPONSIBILITY IS SHAR ED • HU MA NS A RE V UL N ER A B LE Figure 2. The Safe System approach encompasses five safety elements (shown in the inner wedges of the circle) and six safety principles (shown around the outside of the circle). Source: Doctor and Ngo (2022). to be included in e-scooter decision-making processes, and e-scooter-related benefits need to be accessible to all. Roadway designs and transportation programs that start with setting goals for increasing accessibility, comfort, and ease of use for those with the greatest needs can help improve safety and mobility of all. Launching a shared e-scooter program and supporting facilities with a focus on underserved and under-resourced people and communities as a priority can led to universal benefits. Transportation professionals involved in micromobility safety programs must also recognize the ways biases and inequities in program delivery can appear and have historically been observed. For example, research has shed light on how pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure—such as side- walks, protected bicycle lanes, and bicycle parking—is absent or inadequate in communities of color in comparison to predominately white neighborhoods (Lowe 2016; Rajaee et al. 2021; Riggs 2016). Differences in the quality of infrastructure available can affect e-scooter rider behaviors and contribute to disparities in enforcement (Barajas 2021; Barajas 2020). Several studies have shown that enforcement operations targeting jaywalking, riding without a helmet, and sidewalk riding have disparately impacted walkers and riders who are Black or Hispanic or Latino com- pared to white travelers (Sanders et al. 2017; Kuntzman 2020; Chicago Council on Global Affairs 2021). Enforcement of behaviors related to e-scooters—whether by law enforcement or e-scooter operators—carries great risk of perpetuating the inequities experienced by overpoliced groups and therefore should be carefully considered, monitored, and evaluated within e-scooter safety management efforts. E-scooter safety management planning should not only consider potential benefits of equitable approaches, but also inequitable impacts of potential policy and program outcomes. Hardships for some people or communities may be felt more acutely or have much greater repercussions

6 E-Scooter Safety Toolbox than for others. For example, in marginalized or under-resourced communities, e-scooter injuries can exacerbate other health, social, and financial challenges, depending on the severity of the outcomes. From planning to data collection, crash reporting, and evaluation, e-scooter safety management processes offer a way to consider and embed equitable approaches. See FHWA’s Shared Micromobility and Equity Primer (2022a) for equity considerations in infrastructure, planning and collaboration, and operations. The case studies in Chapter 5 highlight real-world equity work being done in e-scooter programs. See Chapter 3 in BTSCRP Web-Only Document 5 for more on crash demographics and disparities, Chapter 4 for a discussion of equity within various safety management practices, and Chapter 9 for research needs related to equity.

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Since their introduction in the United States in 2017, the use of electric scooters (e-scooters) has expanded to the streets and sidewalks of many cities, and all indicators point to continued growth.

BTSCRP Research Report 9: E-Scooter Safety Toolbox, from TRB's Behavioral Traffic Safety Cooperative Research Program, presents findings from a multiyear research effort that sought to build on existing research to date, identify key gaps in knowledge and data related to e-scooter behavioral safety, and develop evidence-based guidelines that can enhance the coordination of behavioral safety programs and countermeasures with a broader toolbox of approaches to improve safety for all road users.

Supplemental to the report are BTSCRP Web-Only Document 5: E-Scooter Safety: Issues and Solutions and a presentation.

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