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E-Scooter Giants to Boost Helmet Use by Selfies

Helmets are useful to protect light vehicle users from severe head injuries; unfortunately, they are not so sexy in scooter users’ eyes. Bird’s new move is to offer “Helmet Selfie”, incentivizing the use of helmets to increase scooter safety. [1]

The rate of helmet wearing on e-scooters is low, as shown in results published this summer from the specialized mobility insurance company Voom: Eighty percent of e-scooter users do not wear a helmet consistently. A UCLA study of emergency room injuries showed that among all injured scooterists, only 4.4 percent of them were wearing a helmet.

E-scooter company Bird is now encouraging helmet use with the help of social media. The company launched a new program to encourage users to upload selfies of them wearing a helmet at the end of the journey to receive extra ride credits. The same approach has been used to incentivize people into proper parking by photographing the parked scooter before the journey ends. Besides, the company is also introducing the hashtag #BirdHelmetSelfie to spread the word about scooter safety on social media.

In addition to encouraging helmet use, Bird is also marketing the use of reflective clothing and proper lighting, partly by selling safety gadgets on the company’s “safety marketplace”. The company has started the pilot program in Washington, D.C., and it will soon come to other cities. Bird’s director of safety policy and advocacy said, “Bird and cities in which they operate share several common goals, including, but not limited to, improving the safety of all road users”. Another scooter-sharing company, VeoRide, is also using camera-based AI to detect whether riders are wearing a helmet before they start the ride [2].

 

Personal Comments

Low helmet wearing rates for light vehicle sharing services has been an intractable problem. A study published by the University of Washington claimed 20 percent of helmet wearing at the free-floating bike share rentals in Seattle [3]. Bird has been giving away an abundance of helmets for more than a year, but the helmet adoption rate does not respond to the investment. The helmet campaign is apparently much more than offering free helmets or educating users about the importance of helmets. It will be interesting to see how effective Bird’s attempt to nudge users’ behavior for safety will work out. However, another question is: What else can we do for light vehicle safety in addition to putting a helmet on the rider’s head? What about separating cars from the micromobility modes, as we learned from the Danes, or what we are now seeing examples of in this week’s news about dedicated micromobility parking spaces in Germany and car-free housing developments in the U.S?

 

Written by Anne Faxér, RISE Viktoria.

 

Sources

1. 2019-11-22. Scooter Riders Hates Wearing Helmets. Maybe This would Help.

2. 2019-10-14. VeoRide’s E-scooters Know if You’re Wearing a Helmet.

3. 2019-01-15. Bike share programs show infrequent helmet use, little disparity among neighborhoods.