Is it in…or out?
No, and it’s not about a fashion trend on tiktok.
Without a doubt, electric scooters have grown so much in popularity in countless cities across the globe — in the United States, United Kingdom, Europe, Asia-Pacific, and in Australia — due to their convenience and ease of use to get around crowded downtown areas in traffic-congested cities.
Similar to electric cars, electric scooters are powered by a rechargeable battery. Electric scooters like the Australian homegrown brand Mearth GTS Max EVO 2023 can reach top speeds of about 70 kph.
By means of an electric scooter, business people, tourists, and everyday commuters can travel from home to work faster and more efficiently throughout the day.
As such, electric scooters have reached almost a ‘quantum leap’ popularity because they are functional and convenient.
There are several issues however, surrounding the use of electric scooters that have caused city officials and concerned locals to question the safety and viability of these PMDs.
Growing concerns about the personal safety of e-scooter riders, by both sides, the local law enforcement, including the safety of other vehicles on the roads that could be impacted by electric scooters being ridden on public roads have been strongly expressed.
Taking in those considerations, it is best to take an objective look at the issues mentioned and see how city officials and public lawmakers can jointly ‘create’ a future that will allow electric scooters to be ridden by private e-scooter owners around city limits safely and competently.
Issue 1. Roadway Safety & Road Accidents
The topmost and first issue to consider is the issue of personal injuries for riders and pedestrians that are presumably caused by the use of electric scooters.
It can’t be emphasized often enough that electric scooters have grown in popularity because they can easily travel up to 25 kph, within the allowable Australian road regulations. Riders can ride it straight from their home and arrive to work with ease in less than the time it would take if they walk or ride a bike.
There is no argument that one of the advantages that electric scooters have over other modes of transportation is that they are small, easy to maneuver and navigate. Mearth S Pro commuter electric scooter is compact and portable because it is foldable – in a matter of seconds.
Riders can take their scooter too, in alleyways, and travel on pathways and sidewalks with a high degree of maneuverability.
But there is a downside to this. The perceived dangerous side of riding electric scooters is due to the speed and small profile of the electric scooter’s build. Since the e-scooter does not take up much room, it is perceived that car drivers, motorcyclists, bicyclists may not immediately see the e-scooter or the rider in time to prevent an accident from happening.
The argument is that if, as a pedestrian or bystander you’re hit by an electric scooter, then there is a probability you will get knocked over and can seriously harm yourself and those around you. The deduced possible threat to one’s safety is presumed to arise if more electric scooters are allowed to hit public roads.
Issue 2. Inconsistent Laws & Regulations
One factor however that can contribute to e-scooter accidents is that local laws have not progressed quickly enough to adapt and accommodate the rise in popularity of personal mobility devices like the electric scooter.
Also, confusion occurs all too often when riders do not know where they can ride their e-scooters because some cities allow scooters to be used on sidewalks, while others require scooters to stay on paths or bicycle lanes, or ride in private lands only.
Another problem that can be viewed is that electric scooters are fast and bulky for sidewalk use – yet too small, flimsy, and slow to be suitable and safe for road use. Riders may choose to operate a scooter on the sidewalk due to concerns about being hit by a car, and using the scooter on a path can lead to accidents with pedestrians.
Many cities and states are still restricting the use of electric scooters on sidewalks and roads – presumably due to mounting concerns that it can cause harm to pedestrians.
Can you imagine that there may be adult scooter users that don’t know which traffic laws they should follow or where they’re permitted to ride?
It is therefore not improbable that among those people who have ridden an e-scooter, about 50 percent will probably opt to ride on the sidewalk, and about 28 percent will choose to ride in bike lanes, pathways, and the remaining 15 percent will ride on the road.
Issue 3. Personal Injuries
By ignoring the possibility for collisions with pedestrians and other vehicles, riders are also failing to acknowledge that e-scooters can cause danger to them. Since riders are standing up, they are more susceptible to injuring their legs and head if they fall off of the scooter while traveling at high speeds.
Since electric scooters only have two wheels, this makes them prone to tipping over. Their high speed and uneven weight distribution can also mean that coming to a sudden stop can be difficult and this can cause potentially cause significant harm to people and property since riders are not able to react to situations in a timely manner.
This is why city officials require the use of protective headgear, like a helmet and high visibility safety vests when riding an electric scooter. Using a helmet can help reduce life-threatening injuries if a rider unexpectedly falls off of a scooter while riding, and high-visibility florescent vests can help motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians immediately see the rider on their scooter.
There were several instances of fatalities and serious brain injuries caused by electric scooters where riders suddenly fell off without wearing a helmet. Those injuries could have been otherwise prevented by implementing standard laws throughout cities, compelling riders to wear helmets and other protective equipment while riding an e-scooter. It is noteworthy to mention that private owners and riders of Mearth electric scooters have not been involved in any accident or serious injuries, mainly because they were briefed on the importance of adhering to Australian laws pertaining to electric scooter road rules and regulations, caring for and maintaining their e-scooter.
Issue 4. Dangerous Electric Scooter Design
There are other concerns about the use of scooters on public roads that stem from the practical use of the scooters in daily traffic.
The first issue is that the scooters’ speed is slow compared to how fast a car can travel.
The overall impression is that electric scooters will block traffic pace while on public roads, and their speed limits their operation on roadways among vehicles with higher speed limits.
At the same time, driving at 20 kph on a sidewalk near shops and other locations with high foot traffic can potentially lead to confusion and injuries for pedestrians within the area.
While an electric scooter is convenient for the person operating the vehicle, tis rideable can:
• prevent people from enjoying walking at a leisurely pace in a supposedly safe space;
• potentially just barge in and zoom past through crowds;
• generally be a source of irritation in many instances, to pedestrians on sidewalks.
On this, city officials must think about how e-scooters can be ridden safely in public roadways — if they will integrate this mode of transportation into the commuters’ everyday use.
Now here comes the big Q: what can be done to make electric scooters safer on public roads?
After considering the potential dangers that riding an electric scooter poses – both for the rider and also concerning pedestrians and motorists, what can be done to ensure the health of locals, the citizens while promoting the e-scooter as a reliable mode of transportation to go around cities?
Transportation experts agree that it would be regrettable and short-sighted to totally ban the use of electric scooters in cities’ thoroughfares. They also agreed upon review, that electric scooters are in many ways a future-proof and desirable, economical, efficient option for commuting.
E-scooters are a fast transport option that is sustainable, helping reduce pollution and congestion on public roads.
It is easy to see now that the problem isn’t so much with electric scooters. It can be gleaned to be more on the education of the riders, including other vehicles and pedestrians — on safety, traffic rules, road regulations. The cities’ officials also need to urgently develop strict regulations for operators, owners, and riders of electric scooters.
These regulations however, should not be overreaching. A case in point would be that they have to require riders to always wear a helmet and other protective gear while riding on an e-scooter.
In the same manner, riders must always pay attention to their surroundings, even when they’re going at slower speeds, wear protective wear to protect themselves and so as not to pose a threat to pedestrians in the area.
As a matter of foresight, buyers of electric scooters must be conscientious too, and give serious attention to the briefings and trainings provided by legitimate stores that are professionally conducted by highly trained product specialists, as this will guide them about their rights, responsibility, practical tips on caring for their rideable, and obtain insights on other legal matters to make them enjoy better their rides in the city, and even on long-range trips.
It is not a mere quote to remind all concerned that with privileges come certain duties and responsibilities.
Lastly, there is an irrefutable sense of obligation on both city councils and electric scooter manufacturers. Electric scooters should be designed to help reduce accidents, while cities should learn to accommodate PMDs like the e-scooter as an alternative convenient mode of transport.
The locals must endeavor to collaborate with local city officials and lawmakers in Australia’s states for a way to ensure the safety of both e-scooter riders and pedestrians if and when they are allowed on public roads.
To sum it up, there is no doubt that electric scooters will serve as a preferred alternative that’s efficient, environment-friendly and cost-effective transportation for many years to come.