ETSC’s Austrian member KFV has issued a damning report on e-scooter safety, warning of severe deficiencies with the vehicles themselves, particularly their braking distance when compared to bicycles.
KFV investigated real-world e-scooter rider behaviour: speed choice, turning, helmet use, lighting and choice of infrastructure. The effectiveness of e-scooter braking systems was analysed on a test-track test. Finally, an Austria-wide survey highlighted the lack of knowledge of legal regulations. KFV says increasing e-scooter safety is critical.
In Austria, e-scooters are permitted a maximum power output of 600 watts and a design speed of maximum 25 km/h. Since 1 June 2019, e-scooter riders must follow the same rules as cyclists. E-scooters must be ridden on cycle paths if available, or on the road. Riding on the pavement is prohibited, unless indicated otherwise. E-scooter riders must have a BAC level below 0.8 g/l and wear a helmet up to the age of 12 years and are obliged to signal a turn using a hand signal. Driving in pairs is prohibited. The law requires “an effective braking device” as well as reflectors on the front, back and sides.
Since 2015 there has been a significant increase in the number of e-scooter collisions in Austria. According to the KFV Injury Database, around 1,200 e-scooter drivers were injured and hospitalised in 2019 alone.
According to KFV, the main causes of collisions are excessive speed, inattentiveness, distraction, disregard for a red light, misjudgement of the nature of the road surface, alcohol consumption and overconfidence.
KFV’s test track research looked at the braking distances of five commercially available e-scooter models measured in comparison with that of a commercially available bike. E-scooters with different braking systems (electric handbrake, hand lever brake, foot brake and combinations) were tested on level ground, on downhill slopes and at different starting speeds (15/20/25 km/h). At 15 km/h on the flat and an assumed reaction time of one second, a stopping distance of 5.8 to 10.3 m was recorded. The bike came to a standstill fastest: with an average stopping distance of 5.5 m and an average braking deceleration of 6.6 m/s2.
Only one of the five tested e-scooter models delivered better values than the minimum braking deceleration of 4 m/s2 required by law for bicycles. KFV recommends more specific regulations for e-scooters including a minimum value for the braking deceleration of 4 m/s2 and two independent braking devices, at least one of which works independently of the vehicle’s electrical system.