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E-scooters Are Faster Than Driving in San Francisco

E-scooter operator Skip recently published a study claiming that e-scooters bring you to your destination faster than cars in San Francisco. [1]

Traffic in San Francisco is a nightmare for commuters, who sit in the traffic for over 100 hours a year. Now, Skip published some good news by claiming that for more than 70 percent of the trips examined in its study, e-scooters are faster than cars, and this is especially true where a bike lane is available. Skip’s study has been done with data from 10 months of operation in the SFMTA Powered Scooter Share Pilot with a focus on rides that pass through or finish at Caltrain or Montgomery Street BART station, which are ranked as the most popular transit hubs in the Bay Area. A minimum saving of 5 minutes versus driving was observed for most of the trips done in these areas.

Skip uses the open-source H3 library to model spatial data on a hexagonal grid, which always corresponds to the same region of space, to ensure confidence when comparing data taken at different times. Skip also highlights that bike infrastructure can offset longer distances: A trip of two-thirds of a mile takes only 2.5 minutes on a Skip in the bike lane. Lack of a bike lane could in return result in less time saving as was visible in Skip’s study for the northern part of the city where bike lanes are less prevalent.

In the end, Skip pointed out that responsible data sharing will be an important element to ensure mobility accessibility for everyone.

 

Personal Comments

Love it or hate it, e-scooters have been making impacts on cities. Although Skip’s study gives us a positive picture with the solid benefits that e-scooters brought, the reality might not answer to their modelling results. According to what Skip found out, the right to use bike lanes and the design of bike lanes seems to play a decisive role in regard to what e-scooters are worth. This again emphasizes the importance of the collaboration between city authorities and the e-scooter operators to ensure that the right infrastructure is built and also to figure out the best way to keep e-scooters away from places where they shouldn’t be. 

On the other hand, more and more “powered vehicles” are taking up space on bike lanes, including electric bikes, cargo bikes, low-speed mopeds and of course, electric scooters. I personally see a need to perhaps implement more specific rules for vehicles using the bike lanes and to even redesign the bike lanes to decrease conflicts between users riding on various types of vehicle. In Sweden, more and more stakeholders, including the Minister for Infrastructure, started to demand changes in the regulations to keep the scooters under control [2,3].

 

Written by Anne Faxér, RISE Viktoria.

 

Sources

1. 2019-08-29. Study: How San Francisco Skips Traffic.

2. 2019-09-11. Ministern: Behövs reglering av elsparkcyklar. (in Swedish)

3. 2019-09-11. DN Debatt. ”De här lagarna behövs för att få ordning på elsparkcyklarna”. (in Swedish)