The views of IAM RoadSmart
In our view plans to bring forward the national trial of e-scooters are a once in a lifetime opportunity to make positive changes to transport infrastructure as we emerge from the current crisis. Howver the safety of vulnerable users must be the top priority when considering legal changes that will encourage the use of e-scooters. These are substantial items of equipment which have the ability to inflict serious injury on pedestrians and cyclists and also put the user in extreme danger if used amongst motorised traffic.
We carried out a survey of over 1850 web site users and social media followers which showed there is a willingness to accept the wider use of e-scooters within strict guidelines. However, this must be tempered by the fact that the vast majority of road users have neither used or interacted with this form of transport yet. Therefore the government trials will be important in signposting the best way forward. While there are still important road safety questions to be answered, two thirds of those who responded are supportive of e-scooters’ wider use, despite the limited experience people have of using them.
IAM RoadSmart believes the Government trials will be an important step forward in gauging opinions from people once they have actually tried them.
Safety for those using e-scooters and for other road users is a priority for most of those who took part in the survey, which received over 1,850 responses, including IAM RoadSmart members.
The safety of pedestrians and cyclists is the most important road safety consideration (94%) for formulating new legislation on e-scooters. The safety of car drivers and their passengers was the second priority (84%).
There was strong support for allowing e-scooters in the UK to use cycle lanes and cycle tracks, with 76% of respondents agreeing or agreeing strongly this is the best way forward. Over a third (39%) of respondents were willing to support their use on the road.
But pavements and pedestrian areas are no place for e-scooters according to 67% of respondents. Only a fifth (22%) of respondents supported their use in these areas.
When it comes to the safety of e-scooters and their users, over three quarters (76%) of respondents considered it essential that users wear a helmet and a similar number agreed that insurance should be compulsory (78%). Compulsory helmets have been specifically exempted from the current trials, so the government may have to reassess this approach.
The majority of those who took part felt that lights, reflectors and independently monitored safety standards of construction were vital if e-scooters are to be treated as a safe transport option. A majority (86%) agreed speed limiters set to around 12 to 15 mph should be fitted to all e-scooters. This will be happening as part of the upcoming trials and it is clear it has wide support.
Although there were low levels of support for insisting users also hold a car driving licence (21%), there was a widely held view that a minimum age of 14 or 16 was a priority (91%) and over half (58%) favoured a specific test. Registration and licensing were also seen as important by around two thirds of respondents (66%).
Despite the importance of maintaining the safety of e-scooter users and others on the roads and pavements, their benefits to the environment and in reducing pollution were widely recognised. Three quarters (75%) agreed that cleaner air would be a benefit, with a similar number welcoming the potential for less congestion (70%) and a reduction in the use of fossil fuels (70%).
Those who shared their views via the survey, while broadly supportive of their restricted introduction, indicated a degree of scepticism for their practical value, with 79% believing they would most likely be used just ‘for fun’.
But the current Coronavirus crisis may have had a positive impact on the number of people who believe that e-scooters are a serious mode of transport, with around three quarters seeing them as likely to be used for short trips, such as first/last mile journeys and short local trips (74% and 72% respectively). Just over half of people responding (52%) also see them as a viable alternative to public transport.
At IAM RoadSmart we agree that now is the time to make changes to transport infrastructure. People’s travelling needs are changing and are likely to be different for some considerable time to come. This is a great opportunity and one to be embraced, but more evidence of the best way to make these changes safely is needed. So the results of Government’s trial of e-scooters will be critical and should be given time to be assessed properly before rushing into changes which may put road safety at risk.
Our survey results are a useful snapshot of regular road users’ views on the prospect of being asked to interact with e-scooters. It’s clear from our findings that the public could be persuaded to accept e-scooters as a mode of transport if the right standards and regulations are put in place.
However, despite an appetite for changes to the current legislation surrounding the use of e-scooters, experience of riding them is still limited and people clearly still have strongly held concerns about the safety of other road users, particularly the most vulnerable, pedestrians and cyclists.