Safe Micromobility

Organisation: International Transport Forum (ITF)
Date Uploaded to Knowledge Centre: 5 March 2020
Date Published: February 2020

This report examines the traffic safety of pedal cycles, electrically assisted cycles and electrically powered personal mobility devices such as e-scooters, whether owned or shared, in an urban context.

In a fast- evolving urban transport environment, micromobility is changing how people move on a daily basis. This brings new and urgent challenges for national policymakers and city officials. The report proposes 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 report defines micromobility as the use of vehicles with a mass of less than 350 kg and a design speed of 45 km/h or less. This definition limits the kinetic energy of such micro-vehicles to 27 kJ, one hundred times less than the kinetic energy reached by a compact car at top speed. The report classifies micro-vehicles into four types based on their speed and mass: Type A micro-vehicles have a mass of up to 35 kg and their power supply (if any) is electronically limited so the vehicle speed does not exceed 25 km/h (15.5 mph). Many bicycles, e-bikes, e-scooters and self-balancing vehicles fall into this category. Other types of micro-vehicles have a higher mass (Type B) or speed (Type C) or both higher mass and higher speed (Type D).

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

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. A modal shift from motor vehicles towards Type A micro-vehicles can thus make a city safer. A shift from walking to Type A micro- vehicles would have the opposite effect.

The very limited available data reveals similarities and differences between e-scooters and bicycles in terms of risks. A road fatality is not significantly more likely when using a shared standing e-scooter rather than a bicycle. 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.