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Shared micromobility and the helmet challenge

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Helmets have long been a contentious topic for shared micromobility. Most people and e-scooter companies would agree that wearing a helmet when using an e-scooter improves the personal safety of the rider in the event of an accident or collision. However, actually getting people to wear one, particularly one used by others, is proving to be a challenge.

In 2021, three of the 11 companies operating shared e-scooters in the UK provided shared helmets on their vehicles. WIND, which operates in Nottingham, provided helmets integrated into a bulge in the e-scooter frame. TIER also has them available for its York fleet (but not London), secured in a box attached to the frame. And Neuron provides helmets for its Slough, Newcastle and Sunderland fleets, attached to a clip on the frame. In all three cases, the helmet is released if requested by the user in the app at the start of their journey. Users then secure the helmet back onto the scooter at the end of their journey. None of these operators make it mandatory to wear the helmet provided, but strongly advise the wearing of one.

Other operators, including SPIN, Dott, Voi and Lime, have sporadically provided free helmets for users to keep. These are available at public training events, but helmets have not been available at the point of hire. Lime notably gives an up-to-25 per cent discount on the ride upon a successful selfie scanning of the user wearing a helmet.

The Nottingham Approach

WIND has recently replaced its fleet in Nottingham with new LINK scooters which do not have integrated helmets. Superpedestrian, who provide the LINK fleet, have given away helmets at promotional events, but systematic availability of helmets on the e-scooters is no longer available. The company has justified this by looking at its own e-scooter sensor data. It reveals that just four per cent of the almost one million rides on the WIND fleet in 2021 used the integrated helmet. (There will also have been some journeys where the rider will have used their own helmets.)

Superpedestrian also highlighted a recent poll, which found that nearly 80 per cent of people would feel safer using a personal helmet compared to one worn by others too. This could be one cause for the low use of the facility. One would presume though that most users would consider any helmet to be safer than no helmet.

The new Nottingham fleet focuses instead on other safety aspects. These include reducing the top speed to a maximum of 12mph (in line with many of the other UK trials) and even slower in many zones. The new fleet also comes with a “Vehicle Intelligence” system that carries out repeated vehicle checks before and during the ride. Superpedestrian are also handing out helmets at user engagement events, running training sessions, and including safety messages on their local marketing campaigns.

Neuron Alone

The findings and new approach contrast with a poll commissioned by Neuron, now the only remaining operator of e-scooters with integrated helmets in the UK trials. The survey results found that 83 per cent of respondents think that it’s important that e-scooter riders (not necessarily themselves) wear a helmet. 68 per cent of people claim they would regularly choose to wear one if it were provided by an e-scooter company (Neuron was not able to immediately provide data on how often its own helmets are actually used by its UK riders).

The 68 per cent who say they would wear one (in the UK) vs four per cent (who actually wore them in Nottingham) difference is striking. This could be explained by the great majority of the Neuron-commissioned survey’s respondents that had no intention of actually riding an e-scooter themselves. It could also be revealing differences in attitudes between Nottingham’s young, student-heavy demographic and the rest of the country. Or that this kind of polling simply shows that what people say, and what they do, are very different things.

Updated to add in details of TIER’s helmets provided for their York fleet, and additional information on Superpedestrian’s ongoing safety activities in Nottingham.

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