Rental e-scooters were introduced in England in July 2020, during a global pandemic. Safety priorities then were primarily related to preventing transmission of the Covid-19 virus. However, safety from injury due to a collision applied just as much then as it does now.
Nearly three years on there should be plenty of data to inform an understanding of how safe e-scooters are for riders and other road users. The publication by the DfT of the evaluation report in December 2022 gives insights into the first eighteen months of the trials (July 2020-December 2021). PACTS has reviewed the documentation and written to the Minister with comments.
Questions remain, for example,
How safe are e-scooters?
Subjectively the report finding is that most users, from qualitative interviews, “reported feeling safe on e-scooters, [but] also considered them less safe than all other modes of transport, with the exception of mopeds and motorcycles”. When looking for quantitative data the report notes that “gathering reliable safety data was a challenge.”
What are the safety outcomes for different speed limits?
Some trial areas set requirements for their fleet to the parameters set by the DfT, eg 15.5mph maximum speed. Others adopted more stringent requirements, as proposed in a government consultation in mid-2020. The majority operate at 12.5mph or lower.
Were riders at greater risk of harm in a collision when they used a rental e-scooter rather than an alternative mode of transport?
Police data from six areas of the thirty areas where trials were underway in 2021 shows 129 casualties involving rental e-scooters. Most rental e-scooter users would have walked or used public transport. The report, however, compares pedal casualty rates (per mile) for rental e-scooter users with cyclists. It finds an increased factor of three to four times for e- scooter riders. Walking and public transport have casualty rates lower than pedal cyclists.
Are other road users being injured?
The report tells us that people feel unsafe around moving e-scooters and that pavement parking negatively impacts both able and disabled walkers. Residents report collisions. Records from operators and local authorities would be insightful as would the police (STATS19) records for 24 of the approximately 30 areas where the trials are underway.
It is clear that the rental trials have been an opportunity to carry out a detailed study of e-scooter use. Having started with 37 scooters in July 2020. 23,000 were available in December 2021. Over 18 months, across 32 trial areas in England 14.5 million rides were made by 1.4 million users. There has been nearly eighteen months’ worth of data since the end of 2021 and a year of data still to collect until the trial ends in May 2024. There is the potential to make well-informed decisions on future legislation. PACTS is concerned that unless more rigorous data collection is introduced that opportunity will be missed.
Click here to read PACTS letter to Minister of State Jesse Norman
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