How might we future-proof micro-mobility to provide safe, healthy, and equitable mobility?

E-scooters (electric scooters), e-bikes (electric bikes), and e-skateboards (electric skateboards) make people’s lives easier and more productive.  E-scooters and e-bikes have made trekking long distances for class, jobs, or meetings a breeze. Motorized vehicles have become the solution to what would have been a stressful, tiring, and sweaty sprint, ride, or drive.

Nowadays, e-scooters are priced at a similar range as a bike, yet being lightweight, foldable, and dock-free, they have a slight advantage of the convenience of parking in a lot of places, including school campuses. With a relatively small investment in the initial cost of purchase, the riders find themselves a part of the future of transportation – one that is seemingly eco-friendly, sustainable, and accessible. Market projections deem this to be the start of a trend with 12+% YoY CAGR growth through 2030.

Along with the exponential boom of electric mobility vehicles, estimated at as many as 40% of the student body by Princeton Alumni Weekly, safety concerns for both the users of these new modes of transportation and pedestrians have been raised. In April and May of 2022, the University’s Transportation & Parking Services launched a social media campaign on campus. In the U.S., the Consumer Product Safety Commission, in its November 2022 report, noted that e-scooter-related emergency room admissions have seen an enormous surge of as much as 450% from 7,700 in 2017 to 42,200 in 2021, with the actual numbers likely being underrepresented, according to the federal agency. A study in 2021 found that of 397 injured e-scooter riders admitted to the emergency room over a year, only 19 were wearing helmets at the time of their accidents.

Aside from collisions and injuries on roadways and sidewalks, the convenience of portability of these vehicles has also encouraged riders to bring them into buildings, left in hallways and blocking egress, creating safety hazards. On Princeton’s campus, new signage has been popping up in buildings to remind students to park their vehicles in designated parking areas outside buildings. When e-scooters and e-skateboards have every right to the road and are only banned from sidewalks in certain places, existing infrastructures built for pedestrians now must accommodate both walkers and riders of motorized machines. The majority of e-scooter-related incidents involve riders crashing into infrastructural objects like lampposts, potholes, and curbs, and other human beings.

In stark contrast to the increase in popularity and ease of access to these modes of e-transportations, relevant safety regulations and policies are still in their infancy. This new public health epidemic calls for a need to document these micro-mobility practices to help us understand the people, behaviors, practices, and values behind them.

This Tiger Challenge team will examine the experiences of micro-mobility, understand embedded gender and racial disparity in current practices, and devise a solution for an equitable micro-mobility plan.