They’re orange, they’re electric, and they’re back: e-scooters will soon reappear on Virginia Tech’s Blacksburg campus as a continuation of a naturalistic driving study led by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute and Ford-owned micromobility company Spin.
Beginning Aug. 19, 100 new e-scooters will be available at university ride-share stations using the Spin app for short commutes across campus. A fleet of approximately 200 e-scooters will be fully deployed beginning Aug. 25. Fifty e-scooters will be outfitted with Virginia Tech Transportation Institute sensors and data collection equipment that allows researchers to study riding behavior.
The e-scooter research study, launched originally in fall 2019 and paused in March 2020 due to COVID-19, records and analyzes trends in e-scooter rider behavior, interactions with other road users, and other valuable safety data.
Enhanced risks associated with riding on varying topographies and a need for increased safety education on the importance of wearing helmets while riding were among themes that arose from the initial study phase data.
“Data collected showed that transitioning between different surface types — such as to or from pavement to grass — is 60 times riskier than riding on flat pavement. We also noted that riding on rough or soft surfaces will at least double the risk of a crash or near crash. The risk is also three times as high when riding on grass,” said Michael Mollenhauer, director of the Division for Technology Implementation at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute.
“We are excited to bring a new, more robust scooter to campus. S-100 7th edition has dual kickstands for increased stability when parked, three independent braking systems, and dual suspension for smooth riding,” said John Lankford, head of campus partnerships at Spin. “A vast majority of incidents on campus in 2019 and 2020 were not caused by conflicts with pedestrians or other road users and could have been prevented with more safety education or features. This is why we are investing heavily in safety education and additional features for first time users like our slow ride mode.”