Driver Behavior in the Presence of E-Scooters within Varying Infrastructure
Electric scooters (e-scooters) have the potential to revolutionize the way we travel by providing an affordable and efficient means of transportation. The latest trend in micromobility has the potential replace short car trips and provide a solution to the first/last mile problem that is cited as an obstacle to the use of public transportation. Consider for example a recent pilot study in Brookline, MA that found within the past month of the pilot, 47.5% of e-scooter riders used them to access transit while results from implementations across the United States (U.S.) indicate that 36% of rides are replacing car trips (Lime, 2019). Ultimately, e-scooters are seen as a sustainable mode of transportation due to their minimal environmental impact, improved efficiency in moving people, and equity due to their low cost. Motivated by these benefits more and more cities across the globe are permitting e-scooter implementations, yet their safety implications for other users are still not well-understood and safety regulations even within the U.S. vary significantly.
While e-scooter safety has not been extensively studied and statistics on crashes including e-scooters are lacking, operational similarities of e-scooters and bicyclists can be used to draw parallels and make decisions on scenarios that could be of interest. For example, a common safety concern for bicycling are the right-hook crashes, that can occur at intersections when a motorist is turning right while a bicyclist is continuing through. Another safety concern for bicyclists is the proximity (or lateral distance) a vehicle maintains from a bicyclist, especially when bypasses are occurring. It is likely that similar concerns exist for e-scooters, yet no research-to-date has investigated these issues. Most importantly, there is a lack of understanding as to how both infrastructure elements and driver attitudes towards e-scooters and their riders impact the level of safety for e-scooter users.
The objective of this research is to develop a driving simulator experiment where drivers interact with e-scooter riders to investigate how transportation infrastructure and e-scooter riding behavior affect driver behavior. In addition, we propose to assess whether driver attitudes can be associated with certain driving behaviors. For example, we will investigate whether drivers that believe e-scooters should not be allowed to use traffic lanes have a different behavior than those that seem to be more accepting. Multiple scenarios will be developed that will differ in the type of infrastructure used by the riders (e.g., mixed traffic lanes, designated bike/e-scooter lane, or sidewalk) and the e-scooter demand and riding behavior. A questionnaire will also assess driver attitudes towards e-scooter use.