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, according to IAM RoadSmart.
Results from a survey into attitudes towards e-scooters, carried out by the independent road safety charity, have highlighted a growing acceptance of e-scooters as a mode of transport.
And 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 – which are now being fast-tracked to run in June 2020 instead of 2021 as planned – will be an important step forward in gauging opinions from people once they have actually tried them.
E-scooters are currently banned in the UK on public roads and pavements, but the Government is temporarily amending road traffic regulations to enable them to be trialled in selected cities. Three consultations into different aspects of introducing e-scooters as a more widely used mode of transport are also currently underway.
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.
Neil Greig, IAM RoadSmart’s director of policy and research, said: “Now is the time to make changes to the 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 plans to bring forward the Government’s trial of e-scooters are a welcome announcement.
“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.
“We will be using the findings of this survey to respond to the Government’s calls for evidence in the coming weeks and following the trials, due to start next month, closely to ensure road safety continues to be a high priority.”