Measuring the explosion of e-Scooters in Atlanta, Georgia

Micromobility devices like dockless e-Scooters are an environmentally friendly, cheap mode of short-distance transport. They have the potential to massively reduce Uber, taxi and private car usage in cities and towns and emit zero carbon in return. E-Scooter travel also provides citizens with an affordable option for first and last-mile connectivity to public transit.

However, recent studies have shown that e-Scooters present a major safety problem on city streets. A 2018 study by the Public Health and Transportation departments in Austin, Texas, in association with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), found that over a three-month period that 20 individuals were injured per 100,000 e-Scooter trips taken in Austin. That’s about 13 times riskier than biking and 100 times riskier than walking. Of those injuries, nearly half involved head injuries, with 15 percent traumatic brain injuries. Only one in 190 injured scooter riders was wearing a helmet.

Atlanta’s Challenge

Cities everywhere are trying to encourage compact, environmentally friendly modes of transportation like e-Scooters to address both traffic congestion and concerns around pollution and climate change. But, they also have to make sure all road users are as safe as possible. With new modes like e-Scooters, the challenge is that there isn’t a lot of data or knowledge about what steps cites should take to improve safety. That’s exactly the challenge faced by the City of Atlanta.

The City has become one of the densest deployments of e-Scooters in the American southeast, with over 10,000 devices permitted in the city. After suffering four tragic e-Scooter-related deaths, the Mayor announced a two-year, $5 million plan to bring new safety features quickly to the streets of Atlanta. As part of the plan, the City implemented rapid safety refurbishment of a roughly 0.2-mile stretch of 10th street, just west of Piedmont Park, by installing temporary pop-up protected bike lanes – to be used by both bikes and e-Scooters – from October 19-26.

To measure the impact of this new safety feature, the Midtown Alliance – a non-profit coalition of local leading business and community leaders – deployed Miovision Scout along the pop-up protected bike lane to collect data on how many e-Scooters, pedestrians, cyclists, and vehicles used the roadway and protected infrastructure. They specifically sought accurate classification and bi-directional counts on e-Scooters and cyclists using the protected bike lanes. Using video collected by Scout, data processed by Miovision, and reports provided in DataLink, the Midtown Alliance allowed the City to actually see how Atlantans were using the protected bike lane, and helped planners build their case for permanent protected infrastructure to help prevent future tragedies.

The key is that, rather than making decisions based on anecdotes, the City will have a more robust dataset on e-Scooters. And, thanks to easy, effective and cost-efficient Miovision tools, interested parties like Midtown Alliance have been empowered to gather the data necessary to advocate for safer streets in their neighbourhood.

Miovision is the only traffic count vendor providing e-scooter counts. This is particularly important when trying to prove the value of a protected bike lane because we now know, in addition to traditional bike trips, shareable mobility devices (bike share bikes, e-scooters, etc.) can make up a considerable number of trips on protected infrastructure necessitating the need for more protected infrastructure.

Forrest Rose, Midtown Alliance, Atlanta, Georgia