Author: Ronald J. Cohen, P.E.
e-Scooters have risen in popularity as a transportation device in urban city areas. Scooter-sharing systems work towards providing the public with a fast and convenient mode of transport for last-mile mobility in these areas. It was reported in Consumer Reports that, “According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, e-scooters resulted in an estimated 50,000 emergency department visits and at least 27 fatalities between 2017 and 2019, with injuries and deaths on the rise year over year.” e-Scooters are operated on roadways and on sidewalks. Obviously, removing the interaction between motor vehicles and e-Scooters would likely reduce injuries. However, on sidewalks pedestrians find themselves at risk of e-Scooter conflict. Therefore, e‑Scooters traveling in bicycle lanes may be a likely compromise.
An e-Scooter, like the Segway Ninebolt Max, is an electric scooter that can reach a speed of 18.6 mph, travel a distance of up to 40.4 miles and carry a maximum load of 220 pounds. At this time in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, e-scooters cannot be registered with the Department of Motor Vehicles. Only registered vehicles certified by the Department of Transportation can be operated on the streets. As such, sidewalks seem to have become an accepted location for e‑Scooter operation, and for the brave, the streets.
e-Scooter operators do not wear helmets at the level of bicycle operators, which explains certain injuries. However, this article addresses pavement maintenance practices and the related effect on e-Scooter safety. The Segway Ninebolt Max scooter has 10-inch diameter pneumatic tires. This is a much smaller diameter than the customary motor vehicle tire of 16 to 19 inches travelling the roadway or an adult bicycle tire of 26 inches traveling the bicycle lanes. Understand, a change in pavement elevation, broken pavement, or a pothole will be more readily traversed by a larger diameter tire.
In compliance with the Federal Highway Administration, the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices provides an engineering design walking speed for pedestrians of 4.0 feet/second is used for crosswalk safety. However, the e-Scooter may well be traveling at almost seven times that speed (27 feet/second). Therefore, a condition of the pavement that may destabilize, an e‑Scooter may become unrecoverable rather quickly, whereas a bicycle, motorcycle, automobile, or truck normally remain stable or recoverable following a tire-pavement impact.
Under these conditions, to reasonably assure maintaining e-Scooter stability, the pavement surface condition and uniformity are important factors for safety of these smaller diameter wheeled vehicles. However, roadway travel lanes are customarily designed and maintained for the traffic of heavier vehicles with larger diameter tires. Crosswalks are designed for pedestrian traffic, which move slower and require surface profiles or variations for the dynamics of human ambulation. The e-Scooter with its increased speed and smaller wheel diameter poses a new dynamic for pavement maintenance that is not a current pavement maintenance practice.
So, you can see that it is complicated. Therefore, when investigating a mishap involving an e‑Scooter where pavement maintenance is the issue, do not overlook the following in your evaluation:
- Know the e-Scooter. Identify the manufacturer and model. Relating to pavement maintenance, the diameter of the tire may be an important consideration.
- Document the condition of the pavement, including changes in elevation or depths of breaks or potholes that may have been causes of or factors in the incident.
- Consider the location and use of the pavement to reasonably establish applicable inspection practices and maintenance criteria.
- For a defective condition of a pavement, pay attention to the adjacent pavement area. Document conditions associated with aging or construction defects.
- Identify the travel route and compare this with available bicycle lanes.
- Consider HD scanning for documentation and as a potential tool for future use in explaining the incident circumstances to a jury.
In the end, each incident and location are unique. Therefore, be prepared to consider circumstances and practices beyond the ordinary.
Questions? Contact Mr. Cohen at 610-296-2250 or email@example.com