Dallas, Texas – As Dallas nears the imminent revitalization of its electric scooter and bicycle scheme, suspended almost three years ago due to safety and regulation challenges, the conundrum of the security associated with these “micromobility” contrivances persists.
Armed with robustly enhanced regulations, city transport authorities assert they are on the cusp of launching the revised “Shared Dockless Vehicle Program.” The preliminary roll-out is scheduled for Wednesday, with the official launch and media briefing marked for May 31. However, beneath the celebration and planning, questions surrounding the safety of these devices remain unaddressed.
Concerningly, this disconcerting question has even stumped national transportation safety connoisseurs, who cite the absence of reliable collision data for electric scooters and bikes as a barrier to assessing their safety accurately.
In a sobering report from last November, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) — the organization responsible for probing serious transportation mishaps nationwide, like plane crashes and train derailments — voiced significant apprehensions about the unavailability of consistent coding for e-scooter and e-bike accidents, deaths, and injuries.
According to the NTSB, the absence of such coding, which ideally should be utilized by police departments and hospitals for precise categorization of these incidents, impedes the collection and analysis of standardized nationwide data. Consequently, they note, the task of assessing the risk associated with these devices becomes practically unattainable.
From a local perspective, this signifies that as the city sanctions three vendors to release as many as 1,500 e-scooters and e-bikes onto the streets of Dallas in the ensuing week, there exists a lamentable dearth of reliable data to appraise their safety, according to the nation’s top transportation experts.
Acknowledging this predicament, City of Dallas spokeswoman, Jennifer Brown, notes that the city is cognizant of the issue of under-reporting in crash data, mirroring the challenges seen with pedestrian and bicyclist data. To remedy this, the city’s updated regulations now obligate vendors to supply monthly accident reports to track safety trends.
A recent memo by Assistant City Manager Robert M. Perez to the City Council divulged plans to employ a data vendor for tracking compliance with these new stipulations, which include curfews on night-time riding, speed restrictions in high-activity zones, mandatory deployment of devices in underprivileged neighborhoods, and improved tracking of their locations.
To curtail collision rates, the new directives prohibit riding on sidewalks, in public parks and plazas, or on roads with speed limits exceeding 35 mph. The devices themselves are restricted to a maximum speed of 20 mph, with a 10 mph limit imposed in pedestrian-dense areas. While helmets are not mandatory, their use is strongly advised.
With the NTSB urging the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, along with other entities, to establish a standardized data coding system for e-scooter and e-bike incidents, the onus remains on the Dallas city authorities to maintain vigilance in local data collection. This will be essential to ensure the safety of this reinvigorated program surpasses its predecessor’s performance.