Spin launches UK’s ‘first’ micromobility research fund

Spin is launching the UK’s ‘first’ micromobility research fund.

It will be aimed at “tackling the challenges, exploring the opportunities, and answering the questions our industry faces as it matures”.

Spin’s commitment of £100,000 will, over the next 12 months, support top researchers from ten leading universities in the UK and US and a number of mobility experts, working on micromobility questions with an initial focus on safety.

“The willingness to share independent research and learnings about the adoption of e-scooters with key stakeholders has become less of a priority for operators and this needs to change,” said Josh Johnson, public policy manager at Spin. “Spin is committed to improving and advancing micromobility policy frameworks globally in the markets we operate in.

“These studies will give everyone fresh and actionable insights. We look forward to sharing best practices with stakeholders in the UK and beyond around how to best integrate e-scooters into local transport networks while maximising safety of all road users and provide communities with a green, fun and socially-distanced way to travel.”

Johnson added: “Our top priority has always been rider safety. All operators have a responsibility to their riders to not only exceed vehicle safety standards but provide a platform to educate riders on safety best practices and how to be mindful of pedestrians and other road users.”

Preparation for the first piece of research is underway in Milton Keynes, Spin’s first UK market. There is also potential to extend this research to other markets. Spin will be applying to operate in London and if chosen, will expand its research to also include the capital.

The study will explore factors that influence road-user safety, seeking answers to questions such as:

– Where do e-scooter users ride most often (cycle lane, roadway, pavement) and why?
– How often do safety incidents occur, and what are the common factors?
– What factors or conditions (i.e. cycling infrastructure, weather, traffic volume, etc…) impact real or perceived safety of e-scooters for users and for non-users?

The study will include qualitative consumer survey data and quantitative data gathered from Vivacity Lab’s on-street AI and IoT sensors that monitor how e-scooter riders interact with pedestrians, cyclists, and cars. The researchers will have access to anonymised e-scooter movement data (GPS) as well.

Vivacity’s roadside sensors employ machine learning algorithms to detect near-miss incidents and are able to analyse movement patterns of vulnerable road users such as cyclists and pedestrians, as well as vehicles without onboard modems or other networking hardware. Such data will help researchers understand why near-misses happen and what could be done to minimise them. All data shared by the sensors is anonymised with video feeds discarded at source, enabling safer roads without intruding on privacy.

Through this research, Spin may be able to see a mapping of ‘safe routes’ based on riding patterns and user feedback, and recommendations on how local authorities and operators could encourage riders towards a safer use of e-scooters. It may also get recommendations for infrastructure improvements and other policy changes to enhance roadway safety for all users.

“Milton Keynes has been a leader in transport innovation for some time, and we are delighted that the first piece of independent research supported by the Micromobility Research Fund will be taking place here, with leading academics and cutting-edge industry partners,” said Brian Matthews, head of transport innovation, Milton Keynes Council.

Roger Woodman, sssistant professor of human factors at the University of Warwick, added: “Ultimately, the point of introducing e-scooter schemes is to advance our society and to bring a greater benefit to all, not just to the e-scooter riders and the service providers but to all who live in our towns and cities.

“Just as with many new services, this will require a rethink from everyone, including the general public and stakeholders and the path may not always be straightforward. I’m confident that building a strong body of independent research will allow policy makers, e-scooter advocates, as well as sceptics, to advance the dialogue and put forward legislation that best supports everyone.”

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