Policy priorities for safe scooters

May 3, 2023

Two girls in helmets on bolt scooters

Shared electric scooters are a new and rapidly growing form of urban transportation. 

As they become more common, there’s increasing attention around the need to ensure rider and pedestrian safety and develop a coherent set of regulations to govern their use.

That’s why we published the Bolt Scooter Safety Pledge, which outlines our top safety priorities and the steps we’re taking to tackle them.

In this context, we welcome the recent report by the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) that lays out a series of policy recommendations for the European Union and national governments on a wide range of issues related to scooter safety.

We believe policy development needs to consider many factors to achieve positive outcomes and avoid unintended consequences. So it’s critical to consider the views of a wide range of stakeholders, including NGOs like ETSC and shared mobility operators like Bolt, among many others.

Accordingly, in this post, we add our voice to this growing dialogue by outlining key factors that should be considered when developing a regulatory regime — whether at EU or national level.

Technical standards for shared scooters

Shared scooters need to be built for purpose — able to endure heavy usage and outdoor conditions in all four seasons (we take scooters off the streets when the weather doesn’t allow them to be ridden safely, but they still need to be able to survive such conditions). 

It’s, therefore, sensible to develop standards to ensure that shared scooters meet these needs.

At the same time, scooter development is rapid, and there’s a risk that new hardware requirements could deem existing scooters outdated from a regulatory perspective (even if they can still be operated safely).

This could lead to thousands of usable scooters being decommissioned before their lifetime expires, leading to waste and negative environmental consequences.

Furthermore, considering the vast range of topographies across European cities, EU or national regulations must allow scooters to be operable across the continent’s various urban landscapes.

It thus makes sense to ensure that safety standards are in place for components that are essential to safety. At the same time, existing scooters should be grandfathered into any new regime when it comes to less safety-critical components.

Accordingly, we support the ETSC’s call for mandatory hardware requirements such as:

  • independent front and rear brakes;
  • independent front and rear lights; and
  • anti-tampering measures, along with regulations that outlaw vehicle tampering.

Road rules

Along with technical vehicle standards, it’s also important that regulations are in place to discourage unsafe or reckless usage.

We’re fully committed to playing our part in encouraging responsible riding habits. We were the first operator to introduce features such as Beginner Mode and the Tandem Riding Prevention System, and continually develop new safety measures such as our recently introduced Reckless Rider Score.

In addition, we also collaborate with local authorities to implement wide-ranging safety initiatives, from conducting random sobriety tests in partnership with the police to hosting scooter safety training events with local partners. Such local collaboration helps ensure that cities and shared mobility operators work toward shared goals. 

While laws and regulations can help establish the framework for such partnerships, it’s important to note that law enforcement must continue to be handled by the relevant authorities, with operators providing support when appropriate.

Considering these various factors, Bolt supports the ETSC’s recommendations in the following areas:

  • Implementing a minimum rider age of 16, or the same minimum age as mopeds — whichever is older;
  • Banning the practice of riding a single scooter with multiple occupants;
  • Banning riding while intoxicated;
  • Banning the hand-held use of phones while riding; and
  • Providing scooter training for riders and education for other road users on micromobility safety.

Prioritising safe speeds and safe road infrastructure

Beyond the ETSC’s recommendations, two further interventions could drastically improve scooter safety. 

First, cities should consider reducing speed limits for motor vehicles in urban areas. Research by the International Transport Forum has revealed that cars are involved in 80% of crashes that lead to the death of a bike or scooter rider.

In contrast, other research has shown that reducing car speeds from 50 km/h to 30 km/h can lead to a 75% reduction in fatality risk for pedestrians and micromobility users in case of a collision.

Second, cities should invest in safe road infrastructure for scooters and other micromobility vehicles. As we’ve written in the past, Bolt’s internal data shows that scooters are far more likely to collide with cars rather than pedestrians and with more severe injury consequences. 

Indeed, separating motor vehicles, micromobility, and pedestrians based on their relative sizes and speeds intuitively makes sense. And research has demonstrated just how effective this can be.

A study covering 93 cities across six European countries found that introducing shared scooters in cities with a high density of bike lanes didn’t increase traffic accidents. 

In other words, adopting shared scooters was shown to have zero negative impact on overall road safety in cities already committed to providing safe infrastructure for micromobility. 

While such investments come with a short-term cost, there’s an abundance of evidence demonstrating how the establishment of protected micromobility lanes can boost local economies in the long term.

Ultimately, there’s finite space in our cities, so how that space is allocated between various transport modes is a statement of priorities that will go a long way in dictating what the urban mobility system of the future looks like. 

Making cities for people, not cars

Bolt’s mission is to make cities for people, not cars, so we’ll continue to develop new features and initiatives that make city streets as safe as possible for everybody while supporting our city partners in building out the physical infrastructure that’s essential to upholding this goal.

To learn more about how to develop an effective regulatory system for micromobility, contact us at safetylab@bolt.eu.

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