In the last months we’ve seen a huge discussion about the introduction of scooters in the cities and its effects. It’s probably because we are talking about one of the fastest industries in terms of growth and it’s changing with the status quo assumed in urban areas since the popularization of the car around the world.
This tremendous adherence by citizens that use them for short trips, first and last mile, complementing one way to the other and even for fun, scooters have literally moved the cities, civil society and governments, that have a legitimate concern with urban organization and road safety.
This discussion should be based on real data not on gossip or personal perceptions.
Scooters are safer than other motor vehicles
Looking at global numbers, road deaths have already reached 1.35 million per year. In developing countries this pandemic is even worse, becoming the fifth leading cause of death.
If we look at the seven countries where Grow has scooters operating, the proportion varies between 12.5 and 19.7 road deaths per 100.000 people.
Beyond people dying inside their cars, in general cyclists and pedestrians deaths are related to motorized vehicles - in majority, cars - and we can have a clue of whose should be the attention in terms of urban safety.
But let’s check more information to have a better idea about the real villains and victims.
The report Safer City Streets: Global Benchmarking for Urban Road Safety (International Transport Forum) presents the matrix of fatalities involving each type of transport in Bogotá in 2017. Nearly 50% of the deaths are pedestrian and, from these, 39.3% where killed by a car, 27.2% by a motorcycle and 18.0% by a bus. Looking the cyclists deaths (11%), 27.1% where killed by a bus and 23.7% by a car.
In the Brazilian official data of road deaths, it’s possible to see which transportation modes were killed more frequently in 2017: non-motorized with 35,8% and motorcycle with 33.5%. In the other hand, looking the modes responsible for this deaths, there’s a huge proportion of ‘unknown’ motorized (46.3%) - showing a problem in the information record related to the great territorial extension and social inequality - followed by cars (16.6%), buses and trucks (10.9%) and motorcycle (5.1%).
The evolution of road deaths in the US helps to understand the phenomenon of SUV expansion in the last decade. According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), collision death has declined by 25% since 1979. But lately the pedestrians - the most vulnerable on a road-scale - are not seeing any benefits in that. Even with cases of death going down in the last century, in the last 10 years such cases have grown considerably. This means that US roads are becoming more dangerous for the vulnerable modes of transportation.
How about the notifications of scooters injuries?
Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and the City of Austin (USA) released a study looking at scooter-related injuries over a three-month period. The sample of scooter riders showed an injury rate of 200 per 1 million rides. Looking at the actual usage of scooters, it means around one injure every seven years for a person who makes two rides per day daily. However, this rate may be even lower. More than 30% of the injured were riding the first time and the survey had a large number (60%) of beginners scooter riders.
In the Grow notifications database - Grin and Yellow scooter users - in April and May there is an average rate of 0.0068% (68 notifications per 1 million trips). Again, there are a large number of inexperienced users and a considerable portion of cases of minor injuries. More serious cases, such as cuts, fractures and dislocations, had a much lower rate of 0.0017% (17 cases per 1 million trips).
The rise of electric shared micromobility, means a different way to move around the city. This means a new learning curve for all the users of the public space, we need to understand that we are moving differently and that all, scooter users, car drivers, cyclists, pedestrians and people in general are learning how to use our vehicles and spaces in this new environment.
As the General Director of Road Safety and Sustainable Urban Mobility Systems of Mexico City said in WRI’s webinar, "micromobility vehicles are not dangerous by itself, but it is the environment that must improve to provide the safety conditions that users need".