Scooting to a New Era in Active Transportation: Examining the Use and Safety of E-scooters
The modern transportation paradigm is an ever-shifting target and, most recently, micro-mobility options such as electric shared scooter systems (e-scooters) have been contributing to local municipalities’ ability to adapt. Although several agencies have moved towards a “regulate-pilot-evaluate-revise” approach to addressing the transformative technologies of e-scooters, the seemingly overnight proliferation of this new mode in urban areas has brought a great deal of discussion about how this technology is (and should be) used by the consumer. Safety considerations for both e-scooter and conventional transportation mode users is of great concern to planners and decision-makers. It is important to understand the characteristics of micro-mobility users to determine the potential impacts of the ubiquitous adoption of this new mode. If users are coming from other modes, or if they are making trips that otherwise would not have been made, this has implications on future demand for active transportation infrastructure.
This study leverages ongoing work at the University of Utah focusing on safety implications of e-scooters and an ongoing collaboration between the University of Arizona and the City of Tucson to monitor a six-month pilot of e-scooters in the Tucson area. This study considers two specific research questions: (1) Are micro-mobility options synergistic, substitutive, or complementary to conventional transportation modes (e.g., biking via personal or shared bicycles, walking, public transit or automobile use) for different trip purposes and activities (e.g., commuting, restaurants, grocery stores, or recreational)? (2) How safely do micro-mobility users interact with other modes in different types of active transportation infrastructure? Wherever possible, we are also interested in understanding whether the use and/or safety implications are disproportionately linked to specific users of the system, or specific trip purposes or activities (and, therefore, land use). From our Salt Lake City data collection, we found that the presence of bike lanes correlates with lower rates of e-scooter riders on pedestrian sidewalks. When light rail is present, sidewalk riding happened at similar rates with and without bike lanes. E-scooter and bicycle users significantly gravitate towards sidewalks on wider roads. Bike lanes (at non-rail intersections) were correlated with an increase in distracted behaviors. In terms of our Tucson survey, older respondents (40-60 years old) were much less likely to have experienced a crash compared with younger riders (<30 years of age). Those who prefer riding on sidewalks were more likely to have experienced a crash of some kind, while those who prefer riding on bike lanes were less likely. As explored in our non-optimal behaviors data collection in Salt Lake City, we observed more riders selecting to ride on the sidewalk when bike lanes were present. However, when riders were near larger roadways, we also observed more sidewalkriding behavior, even with bike lanes present. This may point to concerns about proximity to vehicles, particularly along faster moving or larger facilities. In any case, the reported use of helmets (21% at least some of the time and 13% while riding) far outweighs our observations in Salt Lake City (2%) or Tucson (2%). A substantial portion of e-scooter riding in Tucson appears to be supporting more recreational travel, including generating more trips for restaurant travel that would not have otherwise happened. E-scooter trips that are substituting for transit travel are more frequent for those with lower incomes or who are older than 30 years of age, but especially for those older than 60 years of age. For transit/e-scooter mode substitutions, income and age matter more than trip purposes or alternative modes available (e.g., more variation explained through demographics). However, trip purpose matters more for e-scooter substitutions with active modes, shared or vehicle modes, or no-trip-taken activities.
Read the full study here.