Increased use of micromobility could risk some negative consequences, both for those who and those who do not opt to make use of it directly. In the recent past, a number of concerns about micromobility have made headlines, ranging from the perceived threat of thieves making use of new types of vehicles, to the injuries caused by collisions involving micromobility.
In this section, we focus on the risks that appear most likely to be linked directly to increased use of micromobility and that carry the greatest costs to Londoners. We explore risks to the safety of riders and non-riders of more people using micromobility more often (both from collisions and from improper parking of shared vehicles), and the risk that the benefits of micromobility might be unevenly distributed across Londoners.
Safety of pedestrians and riders
In common with other types of vehicles, riding on bicycles, e-bikes, and e-scooters entails risks to the person riding it and to those around them, such as pedestrians or those in other vehicles. In this section we describe the evidence about the relative risk of different types of micromobility, and how the risk associated with travel on these vehicles compares to other modes of transport such as privately owned cars. Data about injuries resulting from crashes, particularly where injuries are slight rather than severe, are likely to be underreported as casualties may not attend a hospital or speak to the police.
There is not much evidence on the relative safety associated with privately owned micromobility vehicles and rented ones. Because rented vehicles have to be unlocked before use, usually via an app, operators of shared schemes can use tools such as brief training videos or quizzes to nudge riders to ride safely – there have been examples of this in the ongoing e-scooter trials in the UK. Further, rented vehicles are less vulnerable to being ‘hacked’ to override the maximum speed limit imposed by the vehicle; a feature of privately owned vehicles which can lead to vehicles which are speed limited at the point of purchase having their maximum speed dialled up. These features of shared schemes could mean that they are safer to riders and pedestrians, at least in the case of riders who are less familiar
with riding a bike, e-bike, or e-scooter.
Risks to pedestrians from micromobility and other modes
Approximately two per cent of all traffic injuries and deaths in London in 2019 that resulted from a collision involved conventional cycles; the majority (62 per cent) involved a car. 113 This has been consistent in recent years.
Those who are injured as a result of a crash involving an e-scooter are overwhelmingly likely to be the rider, with studies estimating that between 1 and 14 per cent of those injured are pedestrians. 114 In data collated from a range of cities globally, one study finds that a trip by car or motorcycle is more likely to result in someone dying than a trip by walking, using a conventional bike, or taking the bus. Data from London confirms that this pattern holds true in London as well as elsewhere (see Figure 3).
The vast majority of fatalities resulting from crashes involving conventional bikes are riders, with people who aren’t riders (e.g., pedestrians) making up around 10 per cent deaths in such crashes in data from a range of cities internationally, and 16 per cent in inner London. 114 This contrasts with data for crashes involving passenger cars and motorcycles, which are much more likely to result in the death of someone not using the vehicle. Most deaths caused by crashes involving passenger cars are people who were not in the car.
There is good evidence about the risks associated with riding a conventional pedal bike, since they have been popular for a long time in cities around the world. Newer modes, such as e-bikes and e-scooters, have less robust evidence available about the risks to safety associated with riding them. However, emerging data suggests that e-scooters and e-bikes are similar to pedal bikes in terms of the risk they present to riders and non-riders. For instance, one study finds that where people have died in crashes involving e-scooters, riders are much more likely to do so than nonriders (i.e., pedestrians), similar to conventional bikes. 116 One study in the Netherlands, where cycling is generally safer than in other cities, found that e-bikes that are limited to approximately 15.5 miles per hour are no likely to result in a rider visiting an emergency department or being admitted to hospital than conventional bikes once riders’ age and the distance travelled per trip is accounted for. 117
Risks to riders of micromobility
The number of cyclists who are injured or killed on London’s roads has increased in recent years, from an average of approximately 3,400 per year in 2005-09 to approximately 4,630 in 2019 (an increase of 36 per cent). 118 The rate of growth in cycling injuries appears to have been slower than the growth in the number of journey stages made by bicycle in this period. 119 Indeed, the risk of being killed or seriously injured while cycling in London fell by more than 60 per cent between 2000 and 2017. 120
There is limited evidence about the risk of injury from riding an e-scooter or e-bike compared to other modes. What little evidence exists suggests that the risk of riding an e-scooter is similar (within an order of magnitude) to the risk of riding a conventional bike. 114 In the first two months of the e-scooter trial in London, three serious injuries were reported by operators, out of 85,000 trips. 122
Cars and larger vehicles are involved in over 80 per cent of conventional bike crashes which result in the death of a rider. 114 Figures from one study suggest that fatalities of e-scooter riders are similarly likely to be in crashes involving cars and larger vehicles, though data is limited.
Case study: Guided tours of London on an e-scooter
There are many factors that contribute to safe riding of micromobility, including the availability of good information about how to ride safely. One example of this information being provided to riders of e-scooters in the UK is ScooTours, which, in July 2021, launched e-scooter tours of London. The firm introduce e-scooters to their customers and teach them how to ride them responsibly and safely by taking them on a tour around London. 124
Designed in a way that encourages new riders to get comfortable with e-scooters, the tours have had positive responses even from those previously ambivalent to the vehicles. 125 All tours start with training on safe riding on a quiet street and the tours themselves take place entirely on quiet roads and cycle lanes. Users are guided through traffic in convoy style to encourage safe traffic traversal.
One of the owners of ScooTours explains that in his view the rental model, as opposed to privately owned e-scooters, encourages more responsible riding through measures that hold users accountable if they misuse them. 126 Introducing people to e-scooters in a safe, controlled, and enjoyable environment could encourage more people to take up riding an e-scooter while raising awareness of principles of safe and considerate riding. However, it remains to be seen to what extent the tours increase the uptake of e-scooters amongst the previously sceptical.
Parking shared vehicles in unsafe places
As described above (in ‘How people travel in London’), there has been a rise in people using shared micromobility vehicles to travel around London, in part driven by the recent e-scooter trials. There is a risk that increased use of shared, dockless vehicles, could lead to vehicles being left in places which threaten the safety of pedestrians and other road users.
In this section, we briefly describe the factors that influence where people park their vehicles and present two case studies of operators seeking to encourage appropriate parking among their users.
Micromobility vehicles must be parked when they are not in use. Private vehicles need to be parked close to where the rider needs to go, in a safe and secure location to reduce the risk of theft. These locations also need to be safe for riders to use, which means they need to be well-lit and, as far as possible, in busy places: leaning over to lock a bike is a vulnerable moment for female riders at night. As micromobility modes evolve, we will need parking for different types of vehicles like cargo bikes and bikes or scooters adapted for people with disabilities, perhaps including electric charging capability for private e-bikes and e-scooters.
Londoners who live in flats or terraced houses may also need secure parking adjacent to their home – some London boroughs provide cycle hangars, but demand for these outstrips supply. 127 Secure bike parking is especially important for blocks of flats, as otherwise residents might be tempted to leave their bikes in shared areas – a potential hazard if residents need to flee a fire.
Parking of shared micromobility vehicles is a newer policy challenge, and a more contentious one in recent years. Transport for London’s own shared cycle scheme uses physical docks – users stop paying for their bike only when it is returned to one of these docking stations. This does not entirely remove the risk of bikes being abandoned away from the docking stations, but it significantly reduces it. As London’s transport authority, it is relatively straightforward for TfL to install docking stations in public places: it is much harder for private companies to do so.
Sponsor case study: Dott’s approach to supporting parking compliance
Dott’s clear commitment to providing the safest possible service for all includes non-riders, especially people, such as those with visual impairments, who rely the most on clear pavements to safely navigate the city. Through a mixture of software, hardware, and physical infrastructure, Dott can maximise parking compliance and minimise conflict between vehicles and pedestrians.
On 7 June 2021, London’s rental e-scooter trial launched in a core group of boroughs. Following a competitive tendering process, operators Dott, Lime and Tier were selected to take part.
Dott believes that a critical factor to a successful trial is strong collaboration between all stakeholders to deliver a safe and accessible parking network. Dott has supported this process by sharing its operational experience in Paris, contextualised for London. 128 When the trial started, 119 parking locations were allocated for shared e-scooters. To maximise compliance, Dott requires riders to share a photo at the end of each trip to ensure they have parked inside one of these allocated bays.
Data and images collected by Dott in the first three weeks of the trial indicated that 94 per cent of all trips ended in or adjacent to parking bays. In the vast majority of these cases, scooters were parked correctly inside a bay; otherwise they were parked directly next to it, an indication that some boxes might be too small. The remaining six per cent were abandoned far from parking spots, mostly at the outer boundaries of the service area. This was primarily due to a combination of riders not understanding the parking requirement and not having access to parking that aligned with their journeys. These abandoned scooters may have been parked properly had there been suitable parking available, suggesting that at this stage there were too few parking options.
While Dott appreciates the reasons for the temporary provision of dedicated parking on footpaths at the start of the trial, Dott are urging the boroughs and Transport for London to allocate most parking spots on the carriageway to reduce the potential for conflict between motorised vehicles and pedestrians. Only in exceptional cases, where no suitable location for parking on the carriageway can be found, should footpath locations be used. In these instances, physical infrastructure can be installed to provide additional safeguards for pedestrians. This includes design elements such as barriers, signs, and plants, as illustrated in the image below. The parking compliance data collected by Dott shows that a combination of dedicated parking boxes and photo enforcement technology works extremely well. With more dedicated spots, compliance could increase close to 98 or 99 per cent, similar to levels seen in Paris.
E-bike shared schemes in London so far have been mostly dockless: users simply leave the bike when they are finished with it. They are given guidance on how to park the bike responsibly, but these are hard to enforce in real time. Recent e-scooter trials in London require users to park in a defined area, but this does not have a physical dock. Operators are experimenting with GIS systems to check that an e-scooter has been parking correctly, but current technology makes it hard to tell if it is in or very close to the parking space. Others require users to upload a photo via the app they booked the ride with, to show where they have parked.
Evidence on how frequently or otherwise bikes, e-bikes, and e-scooters that are parked obstruct others is fairly thin, and highly context dependent. However, there are some indicators that parking in shared spaces is less of a problem for micromobility than for other types of transport. For instance, a study which observed the parking of thousands of bikes, scooters and cars in five US cities found that motor vehicles impede access far more (24.7 per cent) than bikes (0.3 per cent) and e-scooters (1.7 per cent). 129
Badly parked bikes, e-bikes and e-scooters can make an area look rather messy and neglected. More importantly they can cause hazards, particularly for people with disabilities – blind and partially sighted people may walk into or trip over them, and they can block the pavement to people who use wheelchairs. Badly placed parking spaces can cause problems as well, by taking space away from pedestrians on narrow or congested pavements. Getting parking for shared micromobility vehicles right is a key issue for the London e-scooter trials and beyond – with new ideas and evidence emerging frequently, the challenge for policy makers is deciding which models to implement and where.
Sponsor case study: Voi’s approach to co-creation in the UK to deliver inclusive transport
Making micro-mobility as inclusive and accessible as possible for all is at the heart of what Voi does. Ensuring everyone’s needs are taken into account in the design and development of our products and services is a key part of our service.
Together with 6-t, a mobility-research oriented firm, we sought to find out what is needed to make our service more inclusive. The roadmap toward a more inclusive micromobility offering identified three key steps:
• Step 1: Ensuring ‘Access To All’ through spatial accessibility, economic accessibility and improved access to opportunities.
• Step 2: Offering a ‘Tailored Service’, by understanding users’ specific needs, developing users’ capabilities and adapting commercial offers.
• Step 3: Implementing ‘Meaningful Involvement’, by empowering grassroots organisations, setting up inclusive advisory and performance monitoring committees.
As the largest micro-mobility operator in the UK, Voi regularly and proactively engages with vulnerable road user groups. This has come in the form of pan disability training for its staff, an inclusive design hackathon, roundtables, surveys and regular equality meetings held across a number of cities – collaborating with the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), Women In Transport, Love Language and many local equality groups to support us in co-creating an inclusive transport offering for all.
Over the past few months, we have been working with Open Inclusion to establish a pan-disability and ageinclusive approach into our operations to make micro-mobility more convenient and safer for everyone.
The starting point was to engage with and listen to the perspective of underrepresented groups and people often left out of the discussion around micro mobility. Led by Open Inclusion, Voi held a number of roundtable discussions covering London and other cities across the UK. This involved local groups as well as, experts from TfL’s Independent Disability Advisory Group (IDAG), RNIB, Transport for All, and Campaign for Better Transport. Alongside the roundtables, Voi also conducted a survey of 120 people. In total, over 150 people were consulted which included people with disabilities, older people and parents with toddlers or babies. This level of engagement has allowed Voi to better understand diverse community perspectives. It has enabled Voi to take a cocreation leadership role when introducing and testing solutions as part of the e-scooter trials.
Inclusive Design Hackathon: As part of Voi’s commitment to inclusive design Voi held two sessions during their quarterly Hackathon, to hear the challenges and hurdles women and people with physical disabilities face when it comes to transport. Voi staff then tested their hackathon ideas with participants by dropping in to open workshop sessions. These sessions were moderated by Open Inclusion. This was the first ever inclusive design hackathon held at Voi. Both the hackathon and inclusive design training for Voi staff has improved the organisations understanding, recognising how physical, sensory or cognitive differences can impact how you consider and design for these differences.
Testing Scooter Noise: Voi engineers have designed a bespoke noise (a ‘low hum’) which has been added to a sample of our e-scooters to alert other road users and pedestrians that an e-scooter is approaching. The noise replicates the types of artificial engine noise introduced on electric cars in recent years and can be adapted and improved by Voi, based on feedback from users and the visual impairment community. Voi is working with the University of Warwick, RNIB and Thomas Pocklington Trust to manage engagement sessions with people with visual impairment and other disabilities.
Co-creation of Parking Racks: Voi in collaboration with the RNIB redesigned its parking racks to improve the visibility and address mobility issues faced by blind and partially sighted people. This resulted in the development of modified and detachable side plates, enabling visually impaired road users who utilise walking canes to detect parked e-scooters more easily. These racks have helped to reduce street clutter and improve e-scooter parking habits.
The three-step approach will help deliver a service that is inclusive and accessible for all. That means a transport service that contributes to the public transport system, with a geographical distribution making it available further out from the city centres and in different kinds of neighbourhoods. As the service evolves, we at Voi will ensure that it does so in consideration of all citizens’ needs and in partnership with local communities.
This will contribute to building healthier and sustainable cities made for living.
Distribution of the benefits of micromobility
The range of benefits associated with micromobility might not benefit all Londoners equally. In this section, we describe who uses micromobility in London, and the factors that might influence this.
As well as the distribution of infrastructure such as parking spaces and cycle lanes, discussed above, a range of factors are likely to influence whether someone uses micromobility. These include whether they perceive micromobility as something that is ‘for them’, which might be informed to some extent by whether their peers, friends, and family use micromobility; how much micromobility costs compared to other modes of transport; and how accessible the technology, software, and vehicles are, and how safe they feel when they are riding, parking, or getting from their parking place to their destination.
Use of micromobility by people with different characteristics
Different groups of Londoners currently have different levels of micromobility use – broadly, cyclists are more likely than other Londoners to be male, white, and relatively affluent. 130 London’s first Cycling Commissioner, Will Norman, addressed this in 2018, calling diversity a ‘real challenge for London cycling’. 131
In the absence of evidence about the users of other types of micromobility in London, we present in Box 4 a summary of existing evidence from other cities, not just in the UK but globally. The results of these studies will be influenced by a range of local contextual factors, so it cannot be inferred from these exactly what micromobility use in London looks like. In summary, international evidence suggests that users of bikes, e-bikes, and e-scooters overrepresent young people and men; in addition, users of bike sharing schemes tend to have a higher income. These associations appear to vary by mode; though evidence is limited, some studies suggest that e-bikes and e-scooters are ridden by a more representative group.
Box 4: Characteristics of people who ride bikes, e-bikes, and e-scooters
Cyclists in London are more likely than other Londoners to be male, white and relatively affluent. 130 A review of the literature on the characteristics of people who use shared micromobility finds that studies tend to agree that users of bike sharing schemes tend to be young, male, and to have a higher income. 133 Not all studies agree. 134
Fewer studies have investigated the characteristics of other types of shared micromobility, such as dockless schemes or e-scooter schemes. One study in Utah found that as well as younger age groups, a substantial proportion of middle aged people used an e-bike sharing scheme in the area, perhaps because e-bikes provide assistance to the rider. 135
Studies which consider the characteristics of e-scooter riders find that riders tend to be young and male, 136 but that e-scooters appeal to men and women of a variety of ages and ethnicities. Early evidence from the e-scooter trial in Salford suggests that women were slightly more likely than men to have used an e-scooter. 137 One study in Zurich found that e-scooter riders tended to be more representative than bike-share users in terms of educational attainment, full-time employment, and household income – though this may have been because of the prevalence of e-scooter use among students. 138 In the French cities of Paris, Lyon, and Marseille, two thirds (66 per cent) of shared e-scooter riders were men, a quarter were aged 25-34, and riders were ‘significantly more well off’ than the general population. 139
We will not see the full benefits of micromobility for decarbonisation, traffic reduction or personal health and convenience unless inequalities in both micromobility and wider society are addressed.
Some inequalities in micromobility use are specifically related to London’s cycling and scooting infrastructure. Historically, the policy focus of encouraging cycling has largely been on commuter cyclists travelling on radial routes in and out of central London. 140 Central London commuters are more likely to be wealthier, male and white, 141 and this is reflected in statistics about London’s cyclists. Shared schemes – both the established Santander bikes and newer e-scooter trials – are also focused on inner and central London because this is where most customers are, reinforcing this bias towards commuters. Women are more likely than men to fear harassment or assault while using micromobility, especially at the vulnerable moment of parking/docking – this is made worse when parking or docking facilities are in dark or unsafe places. 142, 143 Some 37 per cent of people in London say that they would feel fairly or very unsafe walking on their own after dark on a quiet street near their home, compared to 32 per cent of people in England as a whole, with women considerably more likely to feel unsafe than men. 144 Older people are more likely to say they are worried about cycling in traffic and that they would start to cycle if safer routes were available. 145, 146
Other differences are driven by wider societal inequalities. Research from Transport for London in 2011 found that while the barriers to cycling vary from person to person, a range of factors are likely to impact some groups more than others. These included affordability, with over half of ethnic minority groups excluded from participation by poverty in 2011; a lack of culturally accessible facilities or provision; and a lack of services targeted at people from Black, Asian, or Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds. 147 Black people in the UK are much more likely than White people to have no outdoor space at home, and this makes it harder to store a bike. 148 They are more likely to experience certain health problems, such as diabetes, and these might make cycling more difficult. 149 Income levels in London are closely tied to ethnicity; paying for a bike or e-scooter is much easier if you have a reliable income, especially if you are not sure at first how much it will replace other forms of transport. 150
Finally, all micromobility modes are public and visible – perhaps even more than car or public transport use. If people don’t see micromobility users who look like them, it’s less likely that they will try them out themselves, and this reinforces existing inequalities. 151 Schemes which encourage and promote micromobility use among under-represented groups are likely to have a dual benefit, both for participants themselves and for others in the community.
Any policy to support increased use of micromobility needs to consider these factors if it is to provide meaningful benefits to all Londoners.
Box 5: Disabled people and cycling
Everyone should be able to use micromobility. For some disabled people, cycling infrastructure does not suit their needs or those of the vehicle they used. While most disabled cyclists use a two-wheeled cycle, one poll found that a third had been unable to park or store a non-standard cycle because of inadequate facilities and this lack of infrastructure was viewed as the biggest barrier to cycling. 152
Non-standard cycles include a wide range of vehicles including tricycles, tandem cycles, and hand cycles. Many non-disabled cyclists use non-standard cycles, such as family cycles, tandem cycles, and cargo bikes. They are often different shapes and sizes to standard cycles, which can mean that infrastructure for cyclists, such as parking spaces, are incompatible with the cycles that disabled people use. Non-standard cycles are typically more expensive than standard cycles, which can pose a barrier to disabled people taking up cycling.
Some disabled cyclists use their cycle as a mobility aid, finding cycling easier than walking. One poll found that nearly half of such cyclists had been asked to dismount their cycle and to walk with it in areas where cycling is not permitted. Wheels for Wellbeing has called for disabled cyclists to be given permission to cycle considerately in non-cycling areas when using their cycle as a mobility aid. E-scooters, which do not require pedalling, may appeal to some people with disabilities, which could be accentuated as new forms emerge such as seated e-scooters or light mopeds.
Use of micromobility in different parts of London
People who live in some parts of London are much more likely to use micromobility than other Londoners. A higher proportion of people cycle in inner London (17 per cent) than in outer London (10 per cent). 153 The difference in where people cycle is illustrated by Figure 4 below, which shows the routes where people currently cycle the most in London.
Source: Transport for London. (2018). Cycling Action Plan. Retrieved from: https://content.tfl.gov.uk/cycling-action-plan.pdf
Where in London people are most likely to cycle is likely to be influenced by the kind of cycling infrastructure in their area. Those in inner London have greater access than other Londoners to cycle lanes which are separated to some extent from car traffic and to on-street parking for their bikes when they arrive at their destination (see Figure 5, below), as well as cycle hangars on their street to park their bike if they can’t fit it in their house.
Source: Transport for London. (2019c).
Demand for cycle parking in London exceeds supply substantially, with Transport for London estimating that the city needs 46,661 on-street cycle parking spaces added to the existing stock of 145,449 spaces to meet current demand – this estimate has increased by around 10,000 spaces since the onset of the pandemic. 154 TfL estimate that an additional 13,948 spaces would be required on top of this to meet demand by 2025, and a further 5,217 spaces to meet demand by 2030. As illustrated by Figure 6, demand for on-street cycle parking is greater than supply in all London boroughs. In some boroughs, demand for on-street parking outstrips supply more than in others, with excess demand highest in Westminster, City of London, and Camden in inner London and in Richmond upon Thames, Hounslow, and Kingston upon Thames in outer London. 116
In addition to infrastructure for private micromobility vehicles, the availability of shared modes in London has historically been concentrated in inner London.
For instance, Transport for London’s cycle docked shared bike scheme, Santander Cycles, has 19,791 docks across 782 locations, all of which are in inner London. A glance at where other shared bikes are located when using their app or a partner app such as Google Maps or Citymapper suggests that a similar trend holds true for privately run shared bike schemes in London too.
Case study: Engaging with residents for better services
The Northwest Side Housing Centre (NWSHC) has been running community led cycle infrastructure planning and public engagement programs in Chicago since 2018. The organisation’s involvement in transport infrastructure organising started in 2018 when the youth of the area identified that a lack of public transportation in Belmont Cragin was negatively affecting their lives. 156 64 per cent of the residents in Belmont Cragin drive alone to work, compared with a citywide average of 52 per cent. 157 This may be because of a lack of cycling infrastructure – while approximately 3 per cent of Chicago’s population lives in Belmont Cragin, the area only has 0.5 per cent of Chicago’s cycleways. 158 There were also no docking stations in the area for the city’s bike sharing scheme.
The area Youth Leadership Council 159 lobbied the Chicago authorities to install cycling infrastructure, such as a bike lane on the busy main highway into the area, and docks for the city’s bike sharing scheme, in their neighbourhood. 159 The NWSHC continues to organise in the community to reassess the city’s transportation provision and identify improvements that can be made for cycling, 161 like by drawing attention to the lack of cycleways in target areas with community bike rides. 162 The NWSHC also spread awareness of cycling and bike sharing, and fund free bike passes for those on qualifying government assistance programs. Their partners run free courses teaching residents bike maintenance. 163
The experience of NWSHC in Chicago is a reminder that infrastructure for micromobility is too often provided in a way that benefits some residents of a city more than others and offers lessons for how planning authorities can engage effectively with citizens to ensure that their experiences are reflected in planning decisions.