Visualize: Insights that power innovation

Visualize: Insights that power innovation

E-scooter rentals reshape urban micromobility (part one)

By Sandee Perfetto  |  January 30, 2020

Since 2017, electric scooters (e-scooters) have gone from novelty to rapidly proliferating urban accoutrement across the United States. In at least 65 cities, people are using smartphones to rent e-scooters from start-ups and established ridesharing companies looking to create a new market for “micromobility”—the short trips that would normally entail a taxi or walk.1 In 2018, riders took some 38.5 million trips on rentable e-scooters in cities across the United States.2

But e-scooters, which can often reach speeds of 15 to 20 miles per hour, can come with significant risks for riders.3 Varying regulations, potential for injuries, and cyberattacks may also contribute to such risks—supporting the potential need for new personal and commercial lines insurance to address e-scooter related exposures.

A regulatory gray area

The regulatory regime around e-scooter rental services varies from expressly addressing such services in some cities to nonexistent in others. Several U.S. cities have either banned e-scooters or taken steps to restrict their use, particularly at night.4 Others have welcomed them enthusiastically.5 Some e-scooter rental companies have placed rental e-scooters in cities where the regulations governing their use can be considered unclear.6 Riders themselves seem unsure of the rules.7

Risky rides

E-scooter rental businesses have been on the road for about two years, and data about their safety is now trickling in. A study by researchers at the University of California found “injuries associated with electric scooter use were common,” outpacing bicycling and pedestrian injuries over the same time frame.8 The study also suggested that “low rates of adherence to existing regulations around rider age and low rates of helmet use” contributed to the injuries.

In another study conducted by the City of Austin, half of e-scooter riders who were injured on the vehicle had a “severe” injury, and the city found only one of those injured using an e-scooter was actually wearing a helmet.9

Not every city has had the same experience, however. Portland, Oregon, reported in 2018 that scooter riders were less prone to injury than cyclists over the same time period.10 Other cities initially saw a spike in emergency room visits when e-scooter rental services were launched, only to have those numbers subside after riders became more accustomed to the vehicles.11

Cyber threats

While road risks are the most prominent threats to e-scooter riders, cybersecurity researchers have revealed another potential threat: hacking. Like autonomous vehicles, e-scooters can be remotely hijacked to give attackers access to braking and throttle controls as well as the audio messages broadcast by some models.12,13 It’s little wonder why some cities that permit e-scooter rental operations require those companies to carry cyber insurance.14,15

At Verisk, we’re committed to continuing the conversation around micromobility, e-scooters, and new insurance models to enable these trends to thrive. We’re working on solutions to address the potential gaps in the market for e-scooter riders. Please feel free to share your thoughts with me at Sandee.Perfeto@verisk.com. And stay tuned for part two in this series, where we address the insurance implications of the e-scooter rental boom.

  1. 2018 E-Scooter Findings Report, Portland Bureau of Transportation, 2018, https://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/article/709719, accessed on January 6, 2020.
  2. 84 Million Trips Taken on Shared Bikes and Scooters Across the U.S. in 2018, National Association of City Transportation Officials, April 17, 2019, https://nacto.org/2019/04/17/84-million-trips-on-shared-bikes-and-scooters/, accessed on January 6, 2020.
  3. Ryan Felton, “Safety Glitch Lets Some Shared Electric Scooters Exceed Local Speed Limits,” Consumer Reports, June 7, 2019, https://www.consumerreports.org/product-safety/safety-glitch-lets-some-electric-scooters-exceed-local-speed-limits/, accessed January 6, 2020.
  4. Ed Leefeldt, “Electric Scooters are Igniting New Laws, Liability Concerns and Even ‘Scooter Rage’” CBS News, July 2, 2019, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/electric-scooter-backlash-leads-to-new-laws-and-scooter-rage-july-2019/, accessed on January 6, 2020.
  5. Laws applicable to electric scooters in Portland, Portland Bureau of Transportation,  https://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/article/689878, accessed on January 6, 2020.
  6. Pattrik Perez, “Dockless e-scooter companies operating in Austin without permission,” KVUE, April 16, 2018, https://www.kvue.com/article/news/local/dockless-e-scooter-companies-operating-in-austin-without-permission/269-540397762, accessed on January 6, 2020.
  7. Ryan Felton, “8 Deaths Now Tied to E-Scooters,” Consumer Reports, June 3, 2019, https://www.consumerreports.org/product-safety/deaths-tied-to-e-scooters/, accessed on January 6, 2020.
  8. Tarak Trivedi, et al., “Injuries Associated with Standing Electric Scooter Use,” JAMA Open Network, January 25, 2019, https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2722574?guestAccessKey=c8d43986-1131-4af7-b3bc-a9f9415cd3b3, accessed January 6, 2020.
  9. Dockless Electric Scooter-Related Injuries Study, Austin Public Health, April 2019, https://www.austintexas.gov/sites/default/files/files/Health/Epidemiology/APH_Dockless_Electric_Scooter_Study_5-2-19.pdf, accessed on January 6, 2020.
  10. 2018 E-Scooter Findings Report, Portland Bureau of Transportation, 2018, https://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/article/709719, accessed on January 6, 2020.
  11. Heather Janssen, “Lessons from Tempe: City Explains E-Scooter Regulations,” KOLD News 13, September 9, 2019, https://www.kold.com/2019/09/10/lessons-tempe-city-explains-e-scooter-regulations/, accessed on January 6, 2020.
  12. Rani Idan, “Don’t Give Me a Brake—Xiaomi Scooter Hack Enables Dangerous Accelerations and Stops for Unsuspecting Riders,” Zimperium, February 12, 2019, https://blog.zimperium.com/dont-give-me-a-brake-xiaomi-scooter-hack-enables-dangerous-accelerations-and-stops-for-unsuspecting-riders/, accessed on January 6, 2020.
  13. Alan Martin, “Somebody Has Hacked Lime Scooters to Be Rude,” Inquirer, April 26, 2019, https://www.theinquirer.net/inquirer/news/3074695/somebody-has-hacked-lime-scooters-to-be-rude, accessed on January 6, 2020.
  14. New Mobility-Shared Electric Scooters, Portland Bureau of Transportation, July 23, 2018, https://www.portlandoregon.gov/citycode/article/690212, accessed on January 6, 2020.
  15. SFMTA Powered Scooter Share Program Permit Application, San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, June 1, 2018, https://www.sfmta.com/sites/default/files/reports-and-documents/2018/05/powered_scooter_share_program_permit_application.pdf, accessed on January 6, 2020.

Sandee Perfetto is director, personal lines, auto and farm product development at Verisk. She can be reached at Sandee.Perfetto@verisk.com.