Following on from our last blog, we continue with a focus on Micro-Mobility.
As we noted before, this industry is very new. With all things new, there comes a period of learning and discovery. However, when using a vehicle, it is important that the learning is accompanied by safety and regulations. But how do you regulate something so new?
A report produced by the International Transport Forum (ITF) has shed some much needed light on this area of transport. They have compiled a list of 10 recommendations for safe Micro-Mobility, which we will detail below. The overall conclusion seems to be education, with an emphasis on other road users, not those using e-scooters/bikes. Perhaps, also, an adoption of motorcyclist/pedal bike mentality; predicting what other road users will do, assuming they might not notice someone on an e-bike/scooter, or not be prepared for the speeds such a micro-vehicle can achieve.
The report uncovered that e-scooter users don’t face a higher risk of road traffic death than cyclists. This does not mean there are no risks, but using an e-scooter or bike is not inherently dangerous. 80% of fatal collisions with e-vehicles involve cars. Therefore, it is likely that our roads will become far safer if Micro-Mobility becomes the favoured mode of transport.
Furthermore, a reliable connectivity solution can improve rider and pedestrian safety by enabling AI powered, real-time alerts and over-the-air location services. As the 2G / 3G sunset begins to roll out in some regions over the next few years, 4G LTE connectivity will become a sustainable and future-proof option for micro-mobility providers. 4G provides a lower latency and higher bandwidth connection, enabling better safety features and a secure data transmission. Roaming connectivity services are flexible, and they can detect when a SIM has been removed and used in another device, limiting cost exposure in the event of theft.
So what do the ITF recommend to increase safety?
- Creating safe spaces on roads for e-bikes and scooters. Keeping them off pavements reduces risk to pedestrians. Speed restrictions should apply.
- Reduce speed limits for motor vehicles in shared road spaces.
- Apply similar regulations to those which apply to pedal bikes. Faster micro-vehicles can be treated as mopeds.
- We must emphasise the importance of data collection and sharing, especially as this is a new growth industry. Accurate and detailed crash data collected by emergency services, on board data collection (using sensors, e-sims and so forth) retrieved and shared by hire companies. Travel surveys and data collected by smart tech such as in built sensors and cameras around cities and towns. The more we know, the more we can predict and improve, especially when it comes to safety.
- Monitoring and maintaining road quality; using onboard sensors and GPS, micro-vehicles can provide useful data on potholes, obstructions, near misses. This data, when shared, will prove invaluable for aiding maintenance, which, in turn, will boost safety.
- Training is essential – In order to aid the transition to micro-mobility, we must adjust how we drive. When being taught to drive a car, bus or other large vehicle, learning to be aware of micro-vehicles is imperative. Many schools already offer some level of cycling proficiency education, but if we are to really change our transport habits across the country, cycle (and other micro modes of travel) safety should become part of the curriculum. By doing so, we will pave the way for the next generation, encouraging them to use and be comfortable with different ways of safely getting around.
- Regulate drunk driving and speeding – If we are to increase micro-mobility, we must instate and enforce regulations with regards to alcohol/drug use when in control of an e-bike/scooter and adherence to speed limits.
- Encourage safe usage – With many e-scooters being hired, it is important to remove the incentive to speed. For many, the ability to rent a vehicle by the minute would be a plus, no wasted time or money. However, it has been argued that offering ‘by the minute’ rental might encourage users to speed. There are various ways to tackle this possibility; installing ‘speed limiters’ on scooters, adjusting rental pricing structures (rent by the hour, half day, day and so on), motion sensors providing a warning signal if speed limits are breached, a digitally signed usage agreement between the provider and customer.
- Quality of design and build – As Micro-Mobility becomes more popular, manufacturers must place greater emphasis on the quality and safety aspects of their vehicles; excellent road grip and stability, indicator and brake lights, good protection of brake cables to prevent damage, on board sensors, tracking devices, and of course reliable and secure connectivity.
- Considering beyond micro-vehicles when it comes to fleet – city planners should offer adequate parking spaces and allocate bays for support vehicles used by hire companies, such as vans used for the relocation of e-bikes/scooters. This will improve safety for all road users, reducing the likelihood of dangerous parking leading to obstructed views, a danger to pedestrians and road users alike.
What about the law?
Currently, in the UK, it is legal to purchase an e-scooter for personal use on private land; not roads, bicycle lanes or pavements. There are trials in place across the country involving both hire schemes and privately owned e-scooters. It is likely that the laws which apply to e-bikes will be extended to scooters. These include:
- The user being over the age of 14
- No requirement for a license, registration, tax or insurance
- Can be ridden on cycle paths and anywhere else pedal bikes are allowed
- A maximum power output of 250 watts
- The vehicle should not be powered beyond 15.5mph
Globally, laws vary. Some countries require a driving licence, some a helmet, some insurance, some registration and so forth. Before the world was hit by Covid-19, the UK Government was reviewing how to legislate the newcomers to the micro-mobility world. Now, in light of the pandemic and the drive to return to work without heavy use of public transport or cars, interest in alternative forms of transport has risen and the Government have brought forward their review.
Hopefully, as fleets begin to scale, consistent regulation will be more likely. There is no doubt that adapting the way we travel is important for the sake of the planet. A reliance on petrol and diesel is unsustainable. Micro-Mobility offers us all an excellent option for our journeys. Ensuring safety and good regulation will make this the perfect transport option under many circumstances.
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