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Other Bike Types

Powered bikes and standing scooters are gaining popularity, particularly in urban and suburban communities and through shared ride programs. Docked bikeshare systems increased in number from 2015 to 2019, and the number of dockless bike and e-scooter share systems have been growing rapidly since 2017 (Bureau of Transportation Statistics, 2022). Docked bikeshare has a strong safety record so far, with just two fatalities in over 88 million bike share trips from 2010 to 2016 (Fischer & Retting, 2017). Dockless bike and e-scooter share crash records are not publicly available.

Electric bikes (e-bikes) provide greater speeds, terrain fitness, and hill-climb assistance that can enable bicyclists to commute farther. E-scooters are often used in dense urban communities for short rides. While many of the behavioral safety issues between traditional bicycles and other forms of micromobility are similar, there are differences that may require additional attention.

In the United States limited research has shown that e-bike users generally do not differ from conventional bicycle riders in terms of safety behaviors (Langford et al., 2015). The speed of a person on an e-bike might be slightly higher, and it’s possible for drivers to misjudge the speed of a person on an e-bike. While most e-bike riders have ridden a standard bicycle previous to owning an e-bike, they may be ridden on different routes, and for different purposes such as carrying children or additional cargo, which may result in different behavior for some riders (MacArthur et al., 2018). 

Many e-scooter crashes are single-vehicle crashes that happen on the sidewalk or on roadway locations where the pavement conditions are poor or unsuitable for e-scooter riding (Cicchino et al., 2021). Like bicyclist and pedestrian crashes, when a motor vehicle is involved in a crash with an e-scooter, injury outcome for the e-scooter rider is likely to be worse. Riders of e-scooters often cite the fear of being injured in a collision with a motor vehicle, due to lack of safe places to ride (Sandt et al., 2022).

Quantifying safety issues is challenging with these forms of transportation since underreporting may be common. Specifically, incident and crash reporting is seldom specific enough to indicate these bike types, with e-bike crashes often recorded as bicycle crashes, and e-scooters often recorded as pedestrian crashes. While understanding related to e-scooter safety is growing, many municipalities are not systematically tracking injuries of people riding e-scooters (Sandt et al., 2022). 

Emerging technology

Connected and automated motorist assistance technologies, infrastructure-based technologies, and cooperative safety devices represent an opportunity to enhance road safety for those outside the vehicle as well as for those inside of it. While these technologies have promise, many are still in development, and challenges must be resolved to ensure people walking and bicycling maintain their right to the use of public space safely. Many of the components within these technologies are still evolving and improving their capacity to precisely identify people on bicycles. Connected technologies could add an additional layer of protection for people on bicycles by alerting drivers to their presence but would require broad adoption to be effective. However, as technological tools to improve safety become more available, it is important to consider equity implications associated with deployment.

Innovative approaches

Implementing a safe system approach requires not only collaboration across disciplines but also entails testing new and innovative cross cutting strategies for road safety. The below approaches have yet to be evaluated, but agencies wishing to test them could provide valuable examples and lessons learned on these novel approaches.

Several States have implemented the “Idaho Stop” rule, which allows people on bicycles to treat stop signs as yield signs. The intention of this law is to adapt a traffic control device devised for motor vehicles to the needs of bicyclists. The person on a bicycle must slow and yield to oncoming traffic but is not required to come to a full stop. Since people on bicycles are traveling at slower speeds, and have a better view of the road environment, this maneuver is somewhat intuitive. Rigorous research on the safety implications of Idaho Stop has not been conducted, but an analysis of crashes in States where the law is in place there showed no adverse safety implications (Bike Delaware, n.d.; Meggs, 2010). A report looking at the impact of bicyclist specific traffic safety laws on crashes noted that data to conduct a rigorous analysis of the effects of the Idaho stop were not available (Jackson et al., 2021).

Many towns have installed temporary or permanent Traffic Gardens to teach bicycle safety to children. Traffic Gardens, also known as safety towns or safety villages, are miniature safety courses where children can safely practice riding a bicycle and following the rules of the road but also where they can engage in free play while gaining an understanding of being safe in traffic and interacting with the built environment. Traffic Gardens can include roads, sidewalks, traffic control devices, crosswalks, and more. In some instances, Traffic Gardens consist of painted lines on asphalt, and more elaborate versions can include small buildings and paved streets (Goffman, 2021).

In recent years vulnerable road user laws have been implemented in at least 5 States, and other States have provisions addressing activities such as harassment of vulnerable road users. The laws are intended to increase awareness and protection of people who are not in vehicles, and often apply harsher penalties for drivers when a crash or action involves vulnerable road users. Specifics of this type of legislation appear to vary in their approach, and evaluation of such laws was not identified in the literature search (McLeod, 2013).

In some States local agencies conduct bicyclist and pedestrian safety assessments along with members of the public and interagency partners. These assessments provide an opportunity for SHSOs to collaborate with community members to identify safety concerns and develop comprehensive strategies to address them. In California this approach has been in place under the Complete Streets Safety Assessments Program. One region in California has also been piloting a campaign called “Go Human” that includes a Kit-of-Parts with which local practitioners can set up temporary demonstration projects that show how roads can be improved to address certain safety issues.