E-scooters

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  • We've had quite a bit of discussion about these, so I thought I'd start a thread. To clarify, by 'e-scooters' I mean the ones without seats (so riders stand up), small wheels, a relatively small treadboard, and a front stem topped with the handlebars. These are fitted with a small electrical engine that can propel them to considerable speeds given their low weight and the weight of the rider. I don't mean larger, motorcycle-like scooters (with a seat, windshield, etc.) that may likewise be fitted with an electrical engine in place of a petrol engine.

    E-scooters have recently been marketed heavily all around the world and have recorded significant sales. Some countries are already making accommodations for their use, e.g. in segregated cycle tracks, whereas in the UK the legal situation remains unchanged from that which has previously governed other, similar contraptions like the 'Segway'. Machines like these count as licensable vehicles, i.e. may only be used on the public highway if a vehicle licence is granted, for which there is currently no mechanism in place (and no plans to introduce one). Other licensable vehicles require a driver to additionally acquire a driving licence.

    I've put this in 'General' because it relates materially to cycling. The invention of the bicycle in 1817 by Karl Drais in Mannheim was a work of simple genius--a rigid frame with two wheels attached, of which one is steerable. That's it--many of the other parts that today we associate materially with cycling, such as crank-driven propulsion, chain transmission, or differential gearing, were added much later, and in the view of such luminaries as Mike Burrows (of Chris Boardman's Barcelona Olympics-winning monocoque track pursuit frame fame) are far less crucial from an engineering perspective than the possibility of staying upright on a bicycle by constant and almost unnoticeable small corrections through steering. This means that a rider is always very slightly falling in one direction or the other but able to prevent this by the feeling for which steering is required, which is very easy for us to develop--proverbially 'as easy as riding a bicycle'. There is no such thing as 'balance' on a bicycle, just an illusion of balance.

    E-scooters, on this reading, like unmotorised scooters, are essentially bicycles, because they employ this basic mechanism. They are, however, another step in the long history of trying to find 'improvements' to the basic principle. The most prominent is probably to fit another wheel, or another two wheels, to prevent the falling described above. This terrified people right from the outset, and many copycat machines of Drais' invention were built with that extra wheel, or similar designs fitted with three wheels. However, as is still the case today, these were heavier and much less practical, and harder to control around corners.

    Another very obvious improvement that people have aimed for has, of course, been the fitting of an engine to reduce or eliminate the amount of physical effort required by the rider. This first resulted in Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach's motorised bicycle, the first practical motor vehicle with an internal combustion engine (there were several steam-powered models before it). It was basically a 'safety' bicycle with a strong wooden frame (oddly reminiscent of Drais' first frames, given that there were already metal bicycle frames at the time), although two outrigger wheels were fitted to it, to address the above perceived problem. However, its main aim was to create an engine-powered vehicle. The rest is history.

    Needless to say, these variants of the bicycle have long been considered by many to be more 'modern'. Nothing could be further from the truth. The two-wheeled, human-powered cycle is still very much in development and an eminently practical machine perfect for most urban transportation needs (see the recent resurgence of cargo bikes, very prominent in the early part of the 20th century and then almost forgotten about for decades), and many non-urban ones, although where distances are much greater, and loads heavier, the desire to reduce effort is, of course, completely understandable.

    Still, the e-scooter is one of the most recent developments of this idea that the bicycle is an antiquated machine and that it needs to be changed. Now you can zip about without any effort! You're easily faster than on a bike, you arrive at work without breaking a sweat, and you can have fun along the way! What could possibly be the problem?

  • Well, just as with the Segway, a machine designed to essentially replace walking, a fairly fundamental human activity, with a passive and physiologically disbeneficial method, e-scooters, if deployed in the large numbers their marketers undoubtedly intend, would reduce people's levels of physical activity even further than they already are.

    They are also, like motorcycles, much too fast for what they are. Cars arguably are too fast, too, certainly for urban use. However, greater automated speeds on bicycles, e.g. e-scooters and motorcycles, require greater handling skill than the standard 'as easy as riding a bicycle' command most people achieve, e.g. for scooting along on a non-motorised scooter, and considerable self-awareness not to propel oneself into dangerous situations. They certainly require a lot of training.

    I have no doubt that many e-scooters have been sold to people in the UK who were not made sufficiently aware that their use is illegal in the UK, a legal situation that I support. There are good reasons why e-bikes, for instance, are limited to relatively low speeds, and even so their use has resulted in many deaths and serious injuries where take-up has been great, e.g. in the Netherlands or Germany. People buy these machines without any need. I've just been to Germany and where I was riding every second bicycle, probably more than that, was an e-bike. Many were being ridden by young, fit people using them as a motorcycle replacement. Many were clearly delimited, although in Germany you really risk the police noticing this, and many were clearly intent on going as fast as possible without pedalling--an oft-claimed benefit of e-bikes is that people at least engage in some physical activity, as you're not supposed to be able to use the electrical assist function without pedalling. From my observations, that, too, is overrideable, although I don't know how.

  • Anyway, the main reason these machines have recently attracted negative attention have been the inevitable crashes, including some witnessed by forumengers, but also three crashes that have resulted in fatal or serious injuries in London in the space of two weeks. Emily Hartridge died at Queen's Circus in Battersea after she was hit by a lorry; an unnamed 14-year-old boy crashed into a bus shelter in Beckenham, and now a young man is 'fighting for life' after crashing in Primrose Hill:

    https://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/y­oung-man-fighting-for-life-after-falling­-off-electric-scooter-in-primrose-hill-a­4199426.html

    While I don't think that the associated risks are the main problem with e-scooter use but physical inactivity is, I certainly don't think people should be allowed to ride e-scooters without considerable training, and even then I don't think I'd be in favour of permitting their use on the public highway.

    Edit: PACTS assessment (with thanks to @Carey ): http://www.pacts.org.uk/wp-content/uploa­ds/sites/2/e-scooters-PACTS-position-v2.­pdf

  • My opinion in these is entirely unfounded as I've never ridden one of these things but surely they're bound to be lethal on UK or Irish roads? Such small wheels cannot be well suited to the often poor road surfaces or transitioning between cycle way and roads without far greater risk of losing control at speed than on a bicycle or e-bike?

    Also, these are the most fundamentally uncool thing I have ever seen in my entire life. Not necessarily a good reason to dismiss them for many and I'm sure their proponents are big fans but why any grown adult would want to be seen dead on one of these things is beyond me.

    To arrive at work after a sweat free commute I'd rather have an e-bike or take public transport any day.

  • Big slot on these on BBC news this morning.

    Assume they are awful to ride in the rain?

  • I assume so. Non pneumatic wheels and awful (rear-only?) braking systems.

  • There are good reasons why e-bikes, for instance, are limited to relatively low speeds, and even so their use has resulted in many deaths and serious injuries where take-up has been great, e.g. in the Netherlands or Germany.

    Define many? The Dutch reporting I've seen suggests that ebike KSIs have mostly been in the elderly; while the assist has allowed frail users to continue cycling, that same frailty means that falls are more likely to be serious (and IIRC the majority of these KSI don't involve other road users).

  • Germany has legislation for those things because we have a forward thinking ministry for transport (LoL).
    They are supposed to be the perfect solution for the last mile, meaning if you're too lazy to walk 5-10 minutes.
    They have cute number plates and are supposed to use cycle lanes and the streets.
    Berlin now has a few thousand of those in free-floating sharing form.
    They are definitely not what a dense urban environment, that's already chock full with parked cars, needs.
    It's mainly tourists on them (always blame the tourist) and a lot of them are ridden on the pavement, and there have been quite a lot of accidents.
    There's of course a big discussion in the media, and at least part of it is about the necessary redistribution of road space.

  • I wonder what a self driving car makes of them?

  • I feel the same way about e-scooters as I do about e-bikes.
    10mph brains, 5mph bodies, 20mph speeds are not a good mix.

  • Rentable in Paris. I was there for approx 1 hour and saw two fairly bad collisions.

    Plus they get ditched everywhere

  • Seems you can already get 50mph ones, just the thing for racing hyper-sports cars around London, or zipping down the pavement to get a pint of milk or going home pissed up etc etc.

    Expect more carnage, type approval and law to be decided on conditions of use and i think in the next few years they will be a common sight.

    As it currently stands use is only on private land. Bird have a tester station set up at Stratford and a dedicated legal route to follow, the scoots are Geo-fenced so going off piste so to speak will shut the scooter down until you return to the fence, so the tech is there to limit them.

    What would the legal stand be in event of an accident ? i expect most people using them will give no thought to using them on pavements/shopping precents etc etc and then whine when they get sued for knocking someone over.

    I think a Brompton still wins if compact city transport is needed.

  • Funny watching some goon bang on about how the city needs to enable this kind of transport as it’s compact, convenient and roadworthy whilst a steam of commuters on bikes flies past behind him.

  • I saw a VERY old couple ride on e-bikes on thames path the other day, they looked like they were enjoying it immensely which otherwise might've been a a drive to home county national trust in (possibly) their Nissan Juke.

    Is at least what I assume they would be doing.

    Also I am in market for an e-bike and I can churn watts to place mid-field in a fixie crit and have a mildly successful vlog.

    e-scooters can fuck off though.

  • mildly successful vlog

    Link pls

  • its in the bio

  • You’re so elusive. Can’t find

  • I think e-scooters look like great fun and make a lot of sense in the city when you don’t want to arrive sweaty. I am currently living somewhere with a lot of snow and ice and the small wheels put me off, otherwise I’d probably get one.

  • TFL's website (recently updated with this page)
    https://tfl.gov.uk/travel-information/sa­fety/road-safety-advice/driving-and-cycl­ing-safety?intcmp=5456
    Linked on the home page via 'law on e-scooters'

  • There are plenty of them in Vilnius, a city not cursed with shedloads of traffic. Not too fast, quite economical, looking fairly sturdy, good for navigating streets other public transport would have problems with - they seem to fit their surroundings pretty well. Would caveat that I went early in the year, when there weren't many tourists.

    Speedy ones hitting the streets in London I'd be more concerned about, particularly with our road culture.

  • I was in Australia a few months back and Melbourne was full of e-scooters. They are rented out like Boris bikes, but dock free and with an accompanying helmet on each for that reassuringly false sense of security. Students seemed to love 'em.

  • mmm... mass use sweaty helmets. What could go wrong?

  • Surely soon there'll be so many it'll be impossible to enforce the ban, and they'll just make them legal. We dont have the resource to stop cars speeding let alone ebikes and scooters.
    I'm expecting any day now all traffic will become self aware and begin ignoring red lights all over the country at once.

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E-scooters

Posted by Avatar for Oliver Schick @Oliver Schick

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