Scooters are revolutionising mobility in cities – but safety has to be the top priority
Dmitri Pivovarov, Vice President of Rentals at Bolt, outlines the ways in which the mobility provider is working to improve scooter safety for both riders and pedestrians, and highlights the importance of these developments in ensuring that scooters can continue to provide an environmentally friendly alternative to private cars.
For decades, cities have been built for cars, not people. This has left many of us living in congested, polluted cities where we’re used to seeing more parking spaces than parks. At Bolt, we think that this approach is outdated.
That’s why, since Bolt was founded in 2013, we have developed products that provide better and more affordable alternatives for almost every purpose that a private car serves, offering both ride-hailing as well as rentals – car-sharing, scooters and e-bikes.
Being able to offer this suite of products (not to mention our food and grocery delivery service) in one app places Bolt in a unique position. By working with authorities, we want to support cities’ revolution. Increasingly, more cities create urban areas which have less traffic and pollution and more green spaces, where people can easily move around in a safe and sustainable way. Scooters play a vital role in achieving this mission.
Huge scale brings increased responsibility
Since first launching our scooter rental service in 2018, we have expanded significantly, and now serve 10 million scooter users in more than 170 cities across 20 countries. With this scale comes increased responsibility.
While our scooters offer an environmentally friendly alternative to private cars, we recognise that our responsibility is to ensure that the people using our scooters do it in a safe and considerate manner”
While our scooters offer an environmentally friendly alternative to private cars, we recognise that our responsibility is to ensure that the people using our scooters do it in a safe and considerate manner. That’s why Bolt’s team of engineers is constantly working on new software and hardware features that have a genuine impact on scooter safety. While it can be tempting to focus innovation on flashy accessories or impractical tech, we’re committed to using our expertise to develop features which address the most pressing safety issues – three of which were launched at the end of 2021.
First, we became the first micro-mobility provider to tackle one of the most common safety riding hazards in the scooter industry – tandem riding, where more than one person is riding a scooter at the same time.
Riding a scooter designed for one person with an additional passenger makes it harder to keep balance and manoeuvre the scooter, which can cause accidents for riders and pedestrians. To tackle this problem, our engineers have created a tandem riding prevention system based on the Bolt 4 scooter’s built-in accelerometer. Bolt’s engineers are using the same hardware to detect sudden changes in mass, which is a clear sign that there is more than one person on the scooter. This innovation is currently under consideration for an international patent, and we are planning to implement it on all of our Bolt 4 scooters.
Another safety concern that is frequently encountered is drunk riding. An intoxicated rider creates a serious threat not only to themself, but also to pedestrians and drivers. That’s why we introduced an in-app cognitive reaction test, which measures the user’s reaction time in a series of tests to assess whether the person is fit for riding the scooter. The test has been active on weekends, and we are already seeing evidence that it has acted as a deterrent for drunk riding and has prevented accidents waiting to happen.
Finally, Bolt is piloting a skid braking detection system designed to detect reckless behaviour, such as unsafe cornering or drifting. The system detects rapid braking and skidding, resulting in the back wheel of a scooter getting locked. When such an event occurs, customers are warned against the dangerous behaviour through an in-app push notification after the ride. The feature is currently being tested in Berlin with promising results.
Our focus on safety has recently been recognised by the International Standards Organization (ISO), which awarded us with the ISO45001 certificate for Safety Management Systems. The standard applies to Bolt’s working spaces and to all of the products under the brand, including our scooters. It is a guarantee that Bolt designs and maintains its products to a set of accountable, internationally-recognised standards, which ensure safety of operations.
A company that is serious about the welfare of its riders must be willing to prioritise scooter safety above everything else. That’s why, over the past few months, we paused our scooter operations during heavy snowfall and bad weather conditions. We suspend scooter operations in countries where winters are especially tough, but we also decided to pause operations in other cities, as well, where the weather poses safety risks. We did the same for New Year’s Eve in all of the cities where we operate scooters, in order to keep all potential riders safe and to avoid any accidents.
No scooter operator can force people to ride a scooter in a certain way, but what can be done is raising awareness and educating people on how to do so responsibly”
We don’t believe in imposing safety. No scooter operator can force people to ride a scooter in a certain way, but what can be done is raising awareness and educating people on how to do so responsibly. This is the principle that guides all our scooter safety features and developments. When you brake violently, we send you a notification advising against it. Most people aren’t aware that riding a scooter drunk is dangerous, because in most cities there are no laws against this behaviour. We believe in positively enforcing awareness of safety behaviour, and that is our long-term investment that we promise to make to our rides and the cities in which we operate.
Towards a vision for better cities
By offering our customers alternatives to using a private car in one app, we firmly believe that we can be a vehicle to transform urban areas into sustainable, people-friendly spaces. But we cannot do this alone.
We are committed to being a reliable partner for city authorities and urban communities and integrating our products into their transport ecosystem in a responsible way. We are happy to see that our innovations are already helping riders to adopt safe behaviour, and we hope that our efforts encourage other operators to champion scooter safety and continue to improve our urban communities.
Dmitri Pivovarov is the Vice President for Rentals at Bolt, the European mobility platform with more than 100 million customers in over 45 countries across Europe and Africa. He is responsible for the micro-mobility (e-scooters and e-bikes) and car-sharing product lines. Prior to Bolt, he was a product manager at ZeroTurnaround, where he launched a new product line of performance profiling solutions for Java applications. He has also founded his own company, UserTest.ru, a platform for remote user testing.