ITF report examines traffic safety of micromobility vehicles

Posted: 12 March 2020 |

The report proposes a range of safety improvements for micromobility, relating to vehicle design, fleet operation, infrastructure, regulatory enforcement and training, and it proposes future-proof, balanced safety regulations proportional to the risks imposed.

ITF report examines traffic safety of micromobility vehicles

The International Transport Forum (ITF), an intergovernmental organisation with 60 member countries that aims to act as a think tank for transport policy, has released a report which examines the traffic safety of pedal cycles, electrically assisted cycles and electrically powered personal micromobility devices such as e-scooters, whether owned or shared, in an urban context.

The report is said to propose a framework to define micromobility which includes all the above vehicles and suggests certain limits on mass and speed to classify them. It also compares the safety of powered standing scooters (e-scooters) to that of bicycles, mopeds and motorcycles.

The analysis draws on the results of a workshop attended by 40 participants from 15 countries in October 2019.

Key findings from the report include:

  • The report found that a trip by car or by motorcycle in a dense urban area is much more likely to result in the death of a road user – this includes pedestrians – than a trip by a Type A micro-vehicle (micro-vehicles that have a mass of up to 35kg and their power supply (if any) is electronically limited so the vehicle speed does not exceed 25 km/h (15.5 mph)
  • A modal shift from motor vehicles towards Type A micro-vehicles can thus make a city safer, according to the report
  • However, the very limited available data reveals similarities and differences between e-scooters and bicycles in terms of risks
  • The risk of an emergency department visit for an e-scooter rider is similar to that for cyclists. Two studies, however, found the risk of hospitalisation to be higher with e-scooters, which calls for further investigation
  • Strategically, Type A micromobility could improve traffic safety by reducing the number of car and motorcycle trips in a city. It can increase the catchment area of public transport by allowing wider access to stations. It can also offer a convenient door-to-door transport solution. It can support existing sustainable mobility policies by increasing demand for a safe and connected network of cycle paths, facilitating construction – a process that may otherwise be slow and politically controversial
  • E-scooter safety, in particular, will likely improve once users learn to navigate urban traffic and car drivers become accustomed to novel forms of mobility
  • Safety will also improve as governments put in place safe cycling infrastructure and targeted safety regulations for micro-vehicles and shared mobility operations. Considerable regulatory challenges exist due to the rapid pace of innovation in micro-vehicle design.

The report has also set out a set of recommendations that look to shape the safety and efficiency of micromobility services:

  • Allocate protected space for micromobility and keep pedestrians safe
  • To make micromobility safe, focus on motor vehicles
  • Regulate low-speed e-scooters and e-bikes as bicycles, higher speed micro-vehicles as mopeds
  • Collect data on micro-vehicle trips and crashes
  • Proactively manage the safety performance of street networks
  • Include micromobility in training for road users
  • Tackle drunk driving and speeding across all vehicle types
  • Eliminate incentives for micromobility riders to speed
  • Improve micro-vehicle design
  • Reduce wider risks associated with shared micromobility operations.

The full report can be found here.