IIHS: Trade-Offs when Mandating Slow E-Scooter Speeds

Many cities are turning to speed limiters for electric scooters to address concerns about rider safety and conflicts with pedestrians, according to new study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Yet mandating low travel speeds may push more-scoot use onto sidewalks, the group’s research suggested.

[Above photo via IIHS]

“Our results show that restricting scooters to low speeds offers a trade-off,” said Jessica Cicchino, IIHS vice president of research and the study’s lead author, in a statement.

“At slow speeds, riders are more likely to choose the sidewalk over the road,” she added. “That puts them in less danger from cars but could mean more conflicts with people on foot.”

IIHS noted that e-scooter use has blossomed in the United States since the first shared e-scoot program officially launched in 2017. But as ridership has increased, so have injuries and citizen complaints. In response, many towns and cities have required speed limiters for shared e-scooters, with a 15 mph maximum speed the common limit.

To help understand the effect of different maximum speeds, IIHS researchers compared rider behavior in Austin, TX, and Washington, D.C. Austin caps shared e-scooter speeds at 20 mph, while Washington, D.C., makes the maximum speed 10 mph — one of the lowest in the United States. Neither city has an effective way to require speed limiters on privately owned scooters, IIHS noted in its study.

In both cities, e-scooter riders overwhelmingly rode in bike lanes where they were available. Where there were no bike lanes, however, riders in Washington, D.C., were 44 percent more likely than Austin riders to choose to ride on the sidewalk – and were more likely to favor the sidewalk despite lower vehicle traffic volumes when compared to the 16 Austin observation sites.

Overall, however, riders tended to choose the sidewalk when motor vehicle traffic was heavier, as well as on arterials and two-way roads. In contrast, the researchers recorded an increase in e-scooter riders in vehicle travel lanes on weekends, possibly because of lighter traffic.

E-scooter riders are doubtless safer from fatal injuries when they’re not sharing the road with motor vehicles. However, the net impact of sidewalk riding on less serious injuries to e-scooter users and pedestrians is unclear. A previous IIHS study showed that most e-scooter rider injuries in Washington, D.C., happened on the sidewalk but also that injuries that occurred on the road were more severe.

“E-scooter users clearly take risk into account when choosing where to ride,” said IIHS’s Cicchino. “Many are also conscious of the risk of hitting a pedestrian. [But] slowing down the fastest sidewalk riders should help prevent crashes and reduce the severity of injuries when e-scooters hit pedestrians. The clear preference for bike lanes also gives communities another reason to focus on expanding their bicycle networks.”

The researchers also analyzed rider behavior in the central business district of Washington, D.C., where sidewalk riding is prohibited. Despite the ban, IIHS found that two-thirds of e-scooter users rode on the sidewalks at locations without bike lanes that area – noting that riders in the central business district without bike lanes were also 38 percent more likely than riders in Austin to choose the sidewalk over the street.

There’s little evidence sidewalk bans are any more effective elsewhere. Nevertheless, two-thirds of U.S. communities are considering them or have them in place already, according to a 2022 survey by the Behavioral Traffic Safety Cooperative Research Program.

Others are mulling banning e-scooters from all or certain roads. Improvements in e-scooter technology could offer an alternative solution, IIHS noted, with some e-scooter companies now deploying systems that can detect when their e-scooters are on sidewalks.

As this technology matures, it could be used to apply separate speed restrictions for sidewalk riders or prevent sidewalk riding altogether in key locations, IIHS noted.

INDOT Uses Dry Ice for Safer Graffiti Removal Operations

Removing graffiti from bridge pillars and other structures can be an arduous and sometime hazardous process, especially when using sandblasting equipment to scour concrete surfaces clean. That’s why the Indiana Department of Transportation is now using dry ice instead.

[Above photo by INDOT]

Compared to traditional scouring methods using salt or sand to remove graffiti, INDOT found that “dry ice blasting” provides a safer and more eco-friendly alternative.

Sandblasting, while effective, can generate significant amounts of dust and debris, the agency noted. Dry ice blasting, on the other hand, works by shooting small carbon dioxide pellets at surfaces at high speeds that evaporate on impact. 

[Editor’s note: The video below shows how dry ice blasting is used in the manufacturing sector as a cleaning method for various types of metal machinery.]

Developed in-house by INDOT employees, the agency said its dry ice blasting method for graffiti removal increases safety for workers by eliminating dust and particles they might breathe in; leaves no residue behind due to the dry ice evaporating on impact; increases efficiency and saves time by eliminating the need for cleanup; and minimizes the impact on the environment and waste production.

Environmental News Highlights – May 24, 2023


AASHTO Signs MOU with Association for Commuter Transportation – AASHTO Journal

US Lawmakers Want to Bar Automakers From Eliminating AM Radio in New Vehicles – Reuters

Biden plan to sell land leases for conservation gets pushback – AP

FHWA Announces $749 Million to Repair Roads and Bridges Damaged by Natural Disasters and Catastrophic Events – FHWA (media release)

FHWA Highlights Efforts to Improve Safety for People Walking, Bicycling and Rolling Made Possible by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law – FHWA (media release)

FTA Announces Availability of $220 Million to Modernize Ferry Service and Better Connect Rural Communities – FTA (media release)

DOE – DOT Joint Office of Energy and Transportation Launches New Funding Opportunity and Consortium to Improve Reliability and Accessibility of EV Chargers, Expand the Nation’s Clean Transportation Workforce – Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy (media release)

EPA and Peace Corps Sign Memorandum of Understanding to Advance Environmental Protection Around the World – EPA (media release)


Texas governor signs electric vehicle tax into law – KVUE

Washington governor vetoes collection of drivers’ odometer readings – Seattle Times

California governor wants to make it easier to build roads, dams and more. What’s in his plan? – CalMaters

LEDs Bring Energy Savings—and Light Pollution – Route Fifty

Truckers Are Caught on the Front Line of California’s EV Push – Wired

Mississippi River shipping infrastructure is aging. Who should pay for the repairs? – WWNO Radio

FEMA Announces an Additional $160 Million to Build Climate and Disaster Resilience Nationwide, Including Over $50 Million for Tribal Nations – FEMA (media release)

EPA to Engage the Public on Great Lakes Restoration and Protection Priorities – EPA (Media release)

NTSB Urges Action for Bridges Nationwide – NTSB (media release)


Boeing’s new tool lets airlines plan for net zero emissions – Axios

Montana’s New Anti-Climate Law May Be the Most Aggressive in the Nation – Inside Climate News


Ohio DOT adding adult-sized changing tables in 28 highway rest areas by 2026 – Columbus Dispatch

Advancing Equity in Accessibility and Travel Experiences: The Role of Gender and Identity – Minnesota DOT

No matter what: lessons of climate resiliency from environmental justice communities – Harvard University (video)


Tennessee Study Charts Six Year Drop in Roadway Litter – AASHTO Center for Environmental Excellence

Maryland SHA Sprucing Up Roadsides In Advance of Memorial Day Holiday – Maryland State Highway Administration


Kansas City looking for new transit options for 2026 World Cup – WDAF-TV

New street mural unveiled to help protect cyclists and pedestrians in Tampa – That’s So Tampa


Suffolk County, New York Launches ‘Transit To Trails’ Map Initiative – Long Island Press

Cape Coral, Florida Officially Opens Section of SUN Trail – Cape Coral Breeze

A Conversation About E-Bikes With a Transportation Researcher – Cobb County Courier

National Spending on Bicycles and Accessories Grew 620% from March 2020 to March 2023; Docked Bikeshare Grew 42% – BTS

UAB researchers working on new app to help keep pedestrians safe – WBRC-TV

Northern Virginia Opens New “66-Parallel” Bike And Walking Trail – Dcist

The Good News/Bad News For E-Scooters And Speed – Forbes


TRB Webinar: Risk-targeted Ground Motions for Bridge Design – TRB

TRB Webinar: Innovation in Geoseismic Foundation Design and Performance – TRB

Impacts of Trains Longer Than 7,500 Feet Meeting #6 – TRB


Credit Assistance and Related Fees for Water Resources Infrastructure Projects – Army Corps of Engineers (Final rule)

National Chemical Transportation Safety Advisory Committee; June 2023 Meetings – Coast Guard (Notice)

Revisions and Confidentiality Determinations for Data Elements Under the Greenhouse Gas Reporting Rule – EPA (Supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking)

Great Lakes Advisory Board Notice for Virtual Meeting – EPA (Notice)

Clean Air Act Advisory Committee (CAAAC): Notice of Meeting – EPA (Notice)

South Florida Clean Coastal Waters Act – Interim Assessment; Notice of Public MeetingEPA (Notice)

Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail Advisory CouncilForest Service (Notice of meeting)

Notice of Intent To Conduct Scoping and To Prepare a Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Proposed Lake Erie Quadrangle National Marine Sanctuary NOAA (Notice; request for comments)

Notice of Availability of a Draft Environmental Impact Statement for Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind Project 1, LLC and Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind Project 2, LLC’s Proposed Wind Energy Facilities Offshore New Jersey – Bureau of Ocean Energy (Notice)