For Tiny Vehicles, Safety Comes With Numbers

Motorists tend to look out for hazards they expect. If tiny vehicles proliferate, including electric scooters, greater safety will follow.

October 11, 2018, 12:00 PM PDT

By Philip Rojc @PhilipRojc


Multi-Modalism

DJSinop / Shutterstock

"Two decades ago," Peter Jacobsen and Joel Jacobsen writes, "the very idea of sharing vehicles with strangers would have struck most Americans as odd, even outlandish. Twelve years had to pass after Zipcar was founded in 2000 before even 3% of Americans had tried driving a shared car." Now, as electric scooters become a more and more common sight, drivers may have to get used to navigating the roads with them (not to mention bikes and pedestrians).

With greater numbers comes safety. "Strong empirical evidence suggests that the best thing we can do to ensure the safety of scooter riders is to increase their number. We have no shortage of data about pedestrians and bicyclists, and there's every reason to expect the experience of tiny urban vehicles will follow the pattern."

A psychological "low prevalence effect" underlies that principle. Namely, we tend to devote mental resources to common hazards, and discount rare ones. In places where more people are walking, biking, or scooting, vehicle collisions tend to happen less frequently and are less serious.

In another piece for The Boston Globe, Amy Crawford writes that "if cities and scooters are really going to get along, it will take more than just new regulations — it will take new infrastructure. Sarah Kaufman, associate director of the Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management at New York University, argues for expanding cities' networks of bicycle lanes, which she says should be reimagined as pathways for any small, low-speed vehicle, including those we have yet to imagine."

Tuesday, October 9, 2018 in Streetsblog USA

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