Photo by Christina Spinnen on Unsplash
Since the first Bird e-scooters hit the streets in Santa Monica in the fall of 2017, e-scooters and other forms of micromobility have thrived and cities have encountered lots of attention, both positive and negative, that comes with them. Ranging from complaints about sidewalk clutter to anecdotes about injuries for both scooter riders and other sidewalk users, there are plenty of points of contention for the media and individual residents to focus on. At Ride Report, we know that this type of attention is not welcome and oftentimes not representative of the larger program, so we recommend several strategies to manage and address negative public perception.
Micromobility program stages
Leading up to your program launch
The best way to combat negative attention around an e-scooter program is to prevent it from happening. Most negative feedback comes from a place of confusion and surprise. All of a sudden, the streets have been swarmed by a new mode of transportation, and people don’t know what that means for them.
By clearly communicating program rules and expectations prior to launch, along with goals for the program, cities can prepare their residents for the arrival of e-scooters so it’s less of a shock when they hit the streets. Listing the goals and rules on the program website and across other digital channels, such as social media, can help get the word out. Make sure to include the launch date, rules regarding helmets, and speed limits. It’s helpful to emphasize where existing infrastructure, such as bike lanes, can be found so residents can plan their scooter usage accordingly. We also recommend including an FAQ section to address anticipated concerns.
When your program launches, make sure people are aware of the potentially positive outcomes scooters can bring to the community. Not only are e-scooters an environmentally friendly form of transportation, they also help address community equity issues (particularly with active involvement from public agencies) and are a fun transportation option. These are the types of things most residents and businesses can get behind, particularly if they are already long held transportation goals.
E-scooters have been shown to combat congestion as an alternative to rideshare or car trips. A study on e-scooter ridership in Portland, Oregon revealed that “in 34 percent of cases, riders reported that their most recent scooter trip would have used either a personal car (19 percent in total) or a ride-hailing service (15 percent in total) were it not for the e-scooter service.”
Additionally, with people transitioning back to more frequent travel, micromobility provides an outdoor, socially distanced travel option during vaccine rollout. Focusing on these positive aspects may generate excitement to counterbalance some of the fears around your micromobility program. This gives local news and residents something more three dimensional to hold their attention.
Ongoing e-scooter program publicity maintenance
Once an e-scooter program has launched and received a positive response, it is important to continue proactively communicating about how the program is performing. Share usage stats about how the scooters are being used by residents, workers, and visitors for a variety of trip purposes.
Continue to share any updates to program policies so that users and non-users stay in the know and are able to follow the rules. This will help prevent confusion that can lead to negative press and comments at public meetings.
So what are some of the most common e-scooter complaints we hear, and how should you address them?
“These e-scooters are cluttering the sidewalk”
Across all programs, users have left scooters in varying states when ending their trips. This is often because there isn’t a clear place to leave the vehicles. With the proper planning and infrastructure, sidewalk clutter can be avoided.
Our tools reveal historic data and precise trip-end information to city staff so they can understand where parking hubs will be most useful. Through working with cities around the world, we have also seen a decrease in sidewalk clutter over time, as people become more accustomed to e-scooter use and where to park their vehicles when done.
“They are so unsafe!”
Since e-scooters are a relatively new phenomenon, many people have the perception that they aren’t safe. In reality, e-scooters are a safer urban transportation option than cars! According to a study done by the International Transport Forum, “a trip by car or by motorcycle in a dense urban area is much more likely to result in the death of a road user – this includes pedestrians – than a trip by a Type A micro-vehicle.” This is because scooters are slower and lighter than cars, and therefore less likely to cause serious injury or death.
Yes, people do get scrapes and occasionally more serious injuries, similar to riding bicycles or skateboards, but overall they are not the scourge of the roadway many make them out to be. Point concerned stakeholders to your program rules, which should have a focus on safety, with helmet requirements and speed limits. Tools like Ride Report can demonstrate compliance with those rules to help stakeholders understand if there needs to be changes made by the operators for better outcomes.
"Riders aren’t following the rules"
No matter the activity, whether it is scooters or drivers, there are always going to be rule breakers. These few can often overshadow the many who are e following the rules laid out by your program. One of the most common complaints about rules being broken is sidewalk riding in prohibited locations.
The best way to prevent sidewalk riding is to build infrastructure that allows people to feel safe when riding in the streets. Strategically placed bike lanes or slow streets are great ways to deter sidewalk riding. You can also publicize how the rules are being enforced to provide a peace of mind that the rules are for more than just show.
Understanding your program’s data can help you make the right decisions to craft better rules while also demonstrating to the public that you are actively managing and adjusting the program. Learn more about how you can utilize this data by downloading our white paper on how to make micromobility data work 👇