‘Infrastructure’ causes most scooter crashes, study finds

‘Infrastructure’ causes most scooter crashes, study finds

If you ride an electric scooter and want to stay safe, don’t take them off road.

A new study from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute equipped 50 rental scooters with forward-facing cameras to record more than 9,000 miles worth of data. What they learned is that other drivers or vehicles weren’t scooter riders’ biggest worry.

The threat, in most cases, was infrastructure. That’s right: The surface the scooter-renters rode on was found to cause most of the 154 crashes and near-crashes documented in the 18-month study.

Scooter rentals are popular in urban areas, especially in cities with a college or university. The rider stands on the two-wheeled device and holds a handlebar to guide the scooter. There were 158 dockless e-scooter programs in U.S. cities in 2022.

As the programs have grown, so have injuries. The Consumer Product Safety Commission found 77,200 micromobility device injuries in the U.S. in 2021. Those devices include e-scooters, e-bikes and hoverboards.

The Virginia Tech study found that riders often had problems navigating the transition from one surface to another, such as asphalt onto brick, cobblestone or wood planks. But the worst transition for riders was from a hard surface, like asphalt or concrete, onto gravel, loose dirt or grass.

In those cases, riders were nearly 60 times more likely to have a crash or a near-miss.

Overall, the study blamed infrastructure for 67% of all safety incidents, other road users for 19% and rider behavior for 14%.

As dockless electric scooter programs grow, rider education will be key. But to sum it up: Scooters aren’t for off-roading, so stick to smooth surfaces.

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