Updated: Jul 8, 2019
Safety & Sharing the Road
During the months I spent researching and planning my new commute, safety -- mine and others’ -- was my top concern. I am grateful for initiatives like Vision Zero, which aims to eliminate traffic fatalities and serious injuries while making cities friendlier for greener transport options, and I definitely do not want to end up as a little yellow dot on a Vision Zero Crash Data Dashboard.
The few studies that have been fielded on the safety of electric scooters, like this one, have tended to focus on dockless, shared scooters versus ownership. Thematically, the biggest safety concerns among officials and the public seem to be:
1. Riders riding without helmets
2. New, untrained riders having accidents
3. Ambiguity about where to ride, and unsafe behaviors in shared space
After months of research and riding, my view is that safety guidelines oriented to bikers are generally good advice for electric scooter riders, too, with more caution in some cases.
A helmet is a must at all times. My scooter came with front and tail lights built into the platform, but to increase visibility, I added a headlight on the handlebar, an accelerometer-powered brake light that clips to a backpack, and some reflective tape. I also inserted turn signals into the handlebar grips so I can indicate turns without letting go of the handlebar.
Before riding in public, I spent an afternoon in an empty parking lot familiarizing myself with the vehicle and practicing quick stops, tight turns, and other maneuvers.
On my commute, I ride in bike lanes. I’m careful to respect the law and be courteous to drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians. If I have to cross an area with dense foot traffic, I step off and walk the scooter.
Perhaps most importantly, I keep my full attention on riding and my surroundings. No ear buds, phone, or other distractions.
Before hitting the roads for the first time, I was anxious about how cars and bikes would react to an electric scooter. In reality, I’ve found cyclists to be congenial; one thanked me for riding carefully, and another very helpfully pointed out when I had a flat tire. Cars have been courteous too. Nobody has laughed (at least to my face), complained, or tried to run me off the road. I think if we all follow the golden rule and applicable laws, odds are good we'll continue to get along.
Responsible Scooter Ownership
Compared to renting, scooter ownership comes with a few responsibilities in addition to the benefits.
Most electric scooters’ batteries aren’t removable, so you’ll likely be charging the vehicle where you store it. Charging typically takes 2-6 hours. To avoid over-charging, which can decrease the battery’s life, you may want to use a basic outlet timer like those used for holiday lights.
Parking & Storage
You’ll probably want to park your electric scooter indoors to prevent theft, preserve battery life, and maximize performance. Your apartment or office building may have policies about where or how you can store your scooter, so check in advance. If you need to park your scooter in a public space, I suggest locking it in a location designated for bikes.
Maintenance & Repairs
As a scooter owner, you’ll definitely need to replace, repair, or maintain something at some point. If your scooter has pneumatic tires, I suggest ordering replacement tires and tubes sooner rather than later -- with Boston’s roads, it’s a matter of when, not if, you’ll get a flat. Most routine repairs and maintenance can be done yourself. YouTube is your friend, and if you can’t find an instructional video that covers your specific issue, you can often find another owner who can help in one of the online discussion forums. If you still find yourself stuck, you may have luck turning to bicycle shops for help. In my case, Tom and the team at Somervelo were lifesavers when a flat tire proved especially tricky to fix.
Ambassadorship & Community-Building
If you choose to commute on an electric scooter, you’ll be on the early side of the adoption curve -- though not as early as these early scooter commuters. Like it or not, you’ll be an unofficial ambassador of sorts.
Try to be mindful of how your choices and behavior affect and are perceived by other commuters, officials, and the public.
If you want to make an even bigger impact, consider volunteering with or financially supporting organizations like the Green Streets Initiative that share your values and do important work to advocate for better policies and more resources.
Finally, participate in community meetings and write to your elected officials. It’s important to listen to others’ questions and concerns, and that legislators hear from local, everyday commuters in addition to stakeholders (like dockless rideshare operators).
Get in Touch
Have questions, comments, or want to organize a ride? You can find me on Twitter @KeithAnderson.