Seminar #17 E-Scooters: Sharing the road with the new kid on the block

27th May 2021

For the 17th event in our Sustainable Transport Futures seminar series, we discussed brand new research emerging on e-scooters and discussed the role that this new form of micromobility is playing in our cities and transport practices.  

E-scooter Trials in Greater Manchester

Conor Chaplin – Innovation, Transport Strategy. Transport for Greater Manchester 

Conor kicked off the seminar introducing the Lime E-Scooter trials being implemented in Salford and Rochdale as part of a set of similar trials around the UK. They hope to understand how  E-Scooters may be used for first and last mile journeys,  enhance intermodal connectivity, and contribute to TfGM’s 2040 strategy for 2040 strategy for an integrated transport network.

E-scooters in Salford: Social Research on Experiences and Perceptions

Dr Graeme Sherriff, University of Salford
Dr Luke Blazejewski, University of Salford
Harrie Larrington-Spencer, University of Salford

The Lime E-Scooter trials began in Greater Manchester during lockdown and whilst this research focuses on the Salford trial, there is growing use of private e-scooters within GM and this was therefore also considered within the work. The research, which is ongoing, has so far involved reference group discussions, surveys, and interviews. Research findings showed that people in younger age groups in GM are more likely to use or consider using an e-scooter and people are less likely to consider using an e-scooter if they cycle or drive as part of their regular journeys. In general, recreation or curiosity are the main reasons for e-scooter use (so far) and gendered analysis shows that men are more likely to identify utility purposes for e-scooter use, whilst women more likely to identify fun and recreation. Many participants drew parallels between using an e-scooter and cycling and, in general, safety was considered a barrier to e-scooter use. Reference group discussions highlighted opportunities for e-scooters to be mobility aids and the possibility of integrating them into  multi-modal journeys, but also highlighted fears of exacerbating hostile pavement conditions for visually impaired and hard of hearing people. As the research progresses, the team will investigate the changing use of e-scooters as the operational area of the trial is expanded and Covid-19 restrictions are relaxed.

The report of the interim findings is available online.

Acoustic Vehicle Alerting System (AVAS) for Detectability of E-scooters.

Dr Antonio J Torija Martinez, University of Salford

Antonio discussed how researchers in acoustics at the University of Salford are investigating the potential for acoustic warning systems on E-Scooters. The use of E-Scooters in busy, pedestrian areas poses difficulties for visually impaired and hard of hearing people and the team’s research is exploring the use of acoustic warning systems, although they also recognise that this is only a partial solution to the challenges faced in these spaces.

E-scooters in Barcelona, a Story of Love and Hate

Esther Anaya Boig, Imperial College London

E-Scooters have recently been introduced in Barcelona, differing from the Greater Manchester context as they were not preceded by trials. Intercept survey data shows that, whilst anyone over the age of 16 can use E-Scooters, 67% of users are under 30 years old. The gender gap in use is similar to  cycling and, even though helmet use is not mandatory, 64% of e-scooter users wear them, compared to just 33% of cyclists. Modal shift has largely been from public transport, followed by walking and cycling, with a smaller effect in shifting motorcyclists and car drivers. It will be interesting to understand this shift as we move through the pandemic scenario. Injuries and hospital admissions – particularly of children being carried illegally as passengers – indicates that, conversely to the “safety in numbers” effect in cycling, the increase in e-scooter use is associated with an increase in the risk of injury so far – which corresponds to three times the risk of cycling. The growth in e-scooter use, in combination with rising rates of cycling during the pandemic, is increasing the pressure on already inadequate cycling infrastructure. Overall, the research shows a growth in e-scooter use in Barcelona since 2016 that continues to pose regulatory, planning and managerial challenges for the city. 

Q & A panel

The four presentations were followed by a panel Q&A with questions submitted by the audience. The questions concerned the challenges of sourcing data on trip purpose and modal shift and the implications of a growth in e-scooter use for the safety and independence of road and pavement users with vulnerabilities such as sight and hearing loss and mobility impairments.