Virginia Tech study issuing 300 electric scooters on campus, exploring safety concerns

Virginia News

BLACKSBURG, Va. (WFXR) – As electric scooter usage is becoming increasingly popular in cities across the country, it’s also been met with controversy. Through a research study conducted by Virginia Tech’s Transportation Institute (VTTI), 300 electric scooters will be rolling out on campus to learn more about their safety concerns.

“We’re hoping to really understand the safety impacts. That’s something that we’re really interested in as a transportation institute. And so we’re also looking at how scooters will interact with different infrastructure elements, so curbs, stairways, ramps, and hills. We’ll be able to see the safety impacts of that and then also looking at the nuisance potentially that they might provide as far as if people are parking them where they shouldn’t be,” says Elizabeth White, a research associate at the Center for Technoloy Implementation at VTTI.

Photo Credit: Mary Beth Kegley, VTTI.

According to a report by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 45% of incidents involving e-scooters resulted in a head injury. Research by university’s Urban Affairs and Planning Studion also found that only 3% of riders wear a helmet “often/always”. With Virginia Tech looking to deploy these mobility devices on campus for future use, researchers say they want to make sure they minimize any negative effects of e-scooter deployment.

The electric scooters will be issued by the Ford Motor Company subsidiary, Spin. 50 of those 300 e-scooters will be equipped with data acquisition equipment that will be able to track a rider’s journey, such as a forward camera and GPS. There will also be fixed camera systems set up around campus to help researchers witness the interactions riders will have with pedestrians and vehicles in public areas. According to White, this is the first time E-scooters are being implemented with special equipment for data collection.

Although the devices will be dockless, university policy requires e-scooters to be parked within either five feet of a bike rack or in other designated areas. Spin’s phone app also will have a feature that will require riders to take a picture of where their scooter is located on campus, which will prevent students from leaving them just anywhere.

“Our research study is really hoping to have, as a result, some recommendations for other college campuses, other communities, to deploy scooters in a way that makes sense for that community,” says White.

Although this study is just a research phase, any future plans Virginia Tech will have with electric scooter usage on campus will depend on their results. White says students are very excited to have another way to get around campus.

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