Rise in traffic accidents since introduction of shared e-scooters

In the Netherlands, most e-scooters are banned from public roads, but in other European countries, electric shared scooters are almost indispensable in the urban landscape, especially in larger cities. However, their reputation is not very positive. For example, e-scooters disappeared from Paris in 2023 after residents overwhelmingly voted for their removal from the streets. Research by economist Johannes Kasinger of Tilburg University and his fellow researchers has now also shown that the monthly number of reported accidents involving personal injuries has increased with an average 8.2% after the introduction of shared e-scooters.

Despite the advantages this mode of transportation offers as a substitute for cars and motorcycles (less air pollution, traffic noise, and congestion), opponents are mainly worried about cluttered sidewalks and road safety. This aspect of road safety has been studied by  Johannes Kasinger and fellow researchers Cannon Cloud (Goethe University Frankfurt) and Simon Hess (University of Vienna). They investigated the effect of shared e-scooters on traffic accidents in 93 cities in six countries (Austria, Finland, Germany, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland). The outcome was that the monthly number of reported accidents involving personal injuries in the average city has increased by around 8.2% after the introduction of shared e-scooters.

Summer effect

Whereas the effects were greatest in the summer months, they were not significant in winter. There is a simple explanation, according to researcher Johannes Kasinger: "The increase in the number of accidents with e-scooters in the summer is probably related to the increased use of e-scooters in these months. A practical solution could be to extend the infrastructure for these vehicles during the summer months, e.g., extending existing bike lanes or establishing additional zones where cars are restricted."

Now various mobility options, including shared e-scooters, are becoming more popular, they form new challenges to urban mobility and safety

Improved infrastructure

The effects are largest in cities with a low density of bike lanes. However, in cities with a good bicycle infrastructure, effects were insubstantial. Johannes Kasinger: "Shared e-scooters carry higher safety risks in cities with an underdeveloped bicycle infrastructure. In such environments, the risk of accidents with e-scooters can increases as a result of crowded roads and limited space for micromobility.  To address this issue, government policy could extend the micromobility infrastructure to create more space for vulnerable road users, such as creating dedicated bike lanes. This approach will not only help decrease the number of shared e-scooter-related accidents, but will also stimulate a shift away from car use to a safer and more sustainable traffic landscape." 

Economic consequences

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) stated in its Road Safety Annual Report 2018 that the socio-economic costs of road crashes for the European Member States alone are estimated at over € 500 billion. In 2019, an average road accident with personal injury in Germany involved economic costs amounting to approximately € 61,000, of which € 44,780 was related to physical injury. Assuming that these costs per accident apply to all six countries in the sample, the increase in traffic accidents by 93.2 monthly accidents would entail additional costs of approximately € 466,186 a month and € 5.6 million a year for the average city in the sample.

Johannes Kasinger: "Now various mobility options, including shared e-scooters, are becoming more popular, they form new challenges to urban mobility and safety. This study offers valuable insights for urban planners and society, facilitating a better integration of these new mobility options."