Are e-scooters as dangerous as bicycles?
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has come under fire from cycling groups for comments he made during an interview with the Daily Mail, expressing his interest in implementing mandatory registration and insurance for cyclists. As part of the same interview, he stated that he “absolutely” wanted to enforce speed limits upon cyclists, the argument being that if car users are penalised for breaking road rules, bicycle users should be too. E-scooters meanwhile, an increasingly popular way to get across our towns and cities these past few years, are restricted to a 15.5 mph speed limit in a bid to put a cap on serious injuries. New research conducted by August Stray at the Oslo University Hospital in Norway has been looking into trends in bicycle and e-scooter injuries, one of the most shocking findings being that only 2% of e-scooter injury patients were using a helmet at the time of their accident. James Tytko spoke to Dr Stray to find out more about the differences in accidents between these two-wheeled transport technologies…
August - We saw between 20 and 40 years of age, there's a large volume of e-scooter riders injured. Not that many bicyclists. When we look at children, we almost find no e-scooter accidents. That could be because the children are not able to rent an e-scooter. You often need a phone, you need an app. And then when we looked at the above 40 years of age, we see that quite a few cyclists are injured. So it's more condensed between 20 to 40 years of age between e-scooter riders,
James - August also found a big difference in the times of day these injuries were most occurring.
August - We see quite a bit of bicycle accidents during the commuting hours between 7 and 9. And then we see a lot of bicycle accidents, again between 3 and 5 o'clock in the afternoon, but then after 5 o'clock what we see is that there is a shift, there is less bicycle accidents, but more these e-scooter accidents and it plateaus around midnight until 2 AM. What you would describe as the social hours, I guess.
James - And then the final piece of this jigsaw might not surprise you.
August - Yeah, exactly. During night time, I think it was 91% of the riders were influenced by alcohol or intoxicated, a drastic difference between the two groups there.
James - So many more injuries sustained on e-scooters occur amongst patients between the ages of 20 and 40, during the night with alcohol, more often a factor. This is all compared with bicycle injuries, remember.
August - A very important point is the question about availability, you're probably more likely to use them from a bar or something and there's an e-scooter there. I would say it's quite available and probably tempting to just hop on and go home. Who's to blame? I don't know. It's interesting.
James - Who's to blame indeed? The question this research throws up is- what's the right course of action to reduce these accidents? Is it unfair on those who use e-scooters responsibly to take them away? It would certainly reduce injuries.
August - When we found these datas, that made the basis for the local authorities to actually introduce some restrictions that included that night time driving was prohibited in Oslo. The e-scooter rentals were turned off during the night. And there was also a stricter enforcement of alcohol policies and they reduced the total number of e-scooters in Oslo and limited them to a maximum of 8,000 vehicles in the city center.
James - I wonder if we might start seeing similar sorts of things being introduced in other countries, is that the ambition? Is there a plan to expand the scope of this research?
August - What we wanna do now is to investigate the numbers when the regulations or restrictions were implemented. We don't have all the data yet, but we are seeing trends. They are substantial. There's a difference, there's a decreasing amount of e-scooter injuries.
James - We love to hear it. Scientific research making a difference in the real world.
August - Yeah, <laugh> we like it as well. I've seen quite a few injuries come into our department and we're glad that they're decreasing because the injuries are often not that nice.