For riders, using an e-scooter to travel around is complicated and socially complex. People under the age of 35 years are envious of you, while those over the age of 35 think you are a joke. Of course, e-scooters can only be used by those that travel on their own and under 25 kilometers a day. Next time you are stuck in commuter rush hour traffic, take a look at how many drivers actually travel alone.
The latest media coverage highlights the significant regulatory gap. While e-scooters are similar in weight to bicycles and they also travel at a similar speed (most of them are limited to 20 to 25kph), they are still classed legally as a “mechanically propelled vehicle”. This means that e-scooters have to be insured, taxed, registered, and roadworthy. However, there isn’t a tax category when it comes to e-scooters. In fact, many insurance companies will think it is a joke if you ask them to provide you with a quote.
From RTÉ One’s Six One News, parents are urged not to purchase e-scooters for kids amid various road-safety concerns.
Sinn Féin TD Darren O’Rourke rightly started to debate the safety of these vehicles by highlighting 37 collisions that involved e-scooters this year. Is this figure high? We are not too sure. Current data has indicated that there are over 1,000 bicycle accidents every year. However, there are many more bikes than scooters on the roads. When talking about relative safety, it is also important to take into consideration the scooter accidents that involved scooters without the 25kph restrictions, breaking stop signs and red lights, alcohol, riding without the correct safety equipment, and riding off roads on pavements. It is safe to say that more data is needed before making your mind up about safety.
However, the home-economics of e-scooters are relatively clear. Traveling by diesel, hybrid, or petrol car costs around €1.40 to €1.90 over 25 kilometers. While electric cars will bring these costs down to around 70 cents (even lower when using night rates). e-scooters only cost 9 cents, which is 95% lower than petrol cars. This also means that an e-scooter costs under €20 in energy costs (over 5,000km).
The differences in efficiency are also probably not surprising. Using an e-scooter also means you no longer have to drag a heavy bike with you each time you need a loaf of bread or milk. When adding up the cost differences for an upfront investment, e-scooters are very likely the cheapest type of mechanical transportation currently available, and even a lot cheaper than public transport. In summary, each time you travel into a city on your e-scooter, you will be saving a lot of money when compared to driving a car or using public transportation.
Environmental credentials surrounding e-scooters is also extremely clear. When compared to petrol cars, carbon emissions are 96% lower in e-scooters, and that is based on the electricity credentials of today. With an increase in wind generation every year, the electricity footprint should be down by 50% by 2030. The carbon in each liter of petrol or diesel, however, will stay the same even 100 years from now. Other important environmental factors that are of importance include the actual space that these scooters take up on roads and the air-quality in both cities and towns.
From RTÉ Radio 1’s Morning Ireland, Aengus Cox spoke to the electric-scooter community that is now calling on Government to provide regulations so that these vehicles can be used on public roads and public spaces.
But we have a low-cost environmentally-friendly alternative to cars already. It is true that the bicycle already ticks all these boxes, and it offers an easy way to exercise.
However, the bicycle poses a lot of problems, including distance and gender. In 2016 a census indicated that around two-thirds of the cycling commuters in Ireland were men. A recent study from Trinity College Dublin proved that the cycling gap in gender was really prevalent in the areas that are far away from city centers.
It is tempting to make the assumption that this has to do with differences in physique and risk aversion, but there may be other factors that influence this difference. The expectations imposed on workplace appearance for females are usually less acute when it comes to men. In these instances, an electric bicycle, or e-scooter could be the answer to this problem.