Breaking Ground with the UK's First Micromobility Research Fund

Micromobility vehicles in London

At Spin, we believe that the future of micromobility must be driven by collaboration and transparency. That’s why we’re launching the UK’s first micromobility research fund 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 10 leading universities in the UK and U.S. and a number of mobility experts from organisations — see below for a list of confirmed partners — working on micromobility questions as they delve into their initial research topic: 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. Spin is committed to improving and advancing micromobility policy frameworks globally in the markets we operate in,” said Josh Johnson, Public Policy Manager at Spin.

“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,” he said.

Our first focus will be on safety

“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,” Johnson said.

Preparation for the first piece of research is under way 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 should we be chosen, we will expand our 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, we 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. We 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.

Using data to drive policy

“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,” said Roger Woodman, Assistant Professor of Human Factors, at the University of Warwick.

“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,” he said.

E-scooter safety has been top of mind for the public, media, policy makers, city leaders, and transport officials since the Department for Transport (DfT) trials began this summer in the UK.

Our hope in creating this research fund is to help independent experts uncover potential issues as well as provide policy and regulatory recommendations — parallel to the DfT’s nationwide evaluation of the trials. Spin will share its findings with the DfT.

Work supported by the Fund is expected to have relevance beyond the UK trials for other cities and e-scooter operators globally.

Safety research is just the beginning

Already, we are thinking about additional fields of study. In the near future, researchers will tackle questions like, “What factors influence people’s willingness to try e-scooters for the first time and then to become a regular user?” and “How do people integrate their e-scooter rides into a multi-modal journey, if at all?” and “How can e-scooters be made more appealing to a more diverse population?”

Some other questions we hope to answer are:

  • What travel modes are people shifting from, if any, when they choose to ride a scooter?
  • Outcomes and relevant factors which influence safe use of e-scooters.
  • What insights can be derived from demographic data and its relation to frequency of use?
  • How do e-scooter demo days affect the general public’s acceptance of this new means of transport?
  • In times when participating in physical events are limited, do digital learning materials and virtual safety training events have similar effects as joining in-person riding test tracks?

Who we are working with

Here is a list of the Spin Micromobility Research Fund’s confirmed partners in the U.S. and the UK.

UK Universities

  • Rachel Aldred, Professor of Transport and Director of the University’s Active Travel Academy, University of Westminster
  • Elisabetta Cherchi, Professor of Transport, University of Newcastle
  • Jonas De Vos, Assistant Professor of Transport Planning, University College London
  • Susan Grant-Muller, Chair in Technology and Informatics, University of Leeds
  • Robin Hickman, Professor of Transport and City Planning, University College London
  • Dr. Zia Wadud, Associate Professor in Transport and Energy Interactions, University of Leeds
  • Roger Woodman, Assistant Professor of Human Factors, University of Warwick

U.S. Universities

  • Ralph Buehler, Program Chair and Professor, Urban Affairs and Planning (UAP), Virginia Tech
  • Chris Cherry, Associate Department Head of Undergraduate Studies and Professor for the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Tennessee-Knoxville
  • John MacArthur, Sustainable Transportation Program Manager, TREC Portland State University
  • Angela Sanguinetti, Research Environmental Psychologist at Institute of Transportation Studies, University of California-Davis
  • Center for Transportation Studies (multiple researchers), University of Minnesota

Organisations in the mobility ecosystem

  • Silviya Barrett, Head of Policy, Research and Projects, Campaign for Better Transport
  • Andrea Broaddus, Senior Research Scientist, Ford Motor Company
  • Sebastian Castellanos, Research Program Lead, NUMO
  • Brooks Rainwater, Senior Executive & Director for Center for City Solution, National League of Cities
  • Stephanie Seki, Mobility Partnerships Manager, Populus

Learn more about Spin’s latest projects:

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