The rise in popularity of electric scooters, particularly in the past year, signals a win for micromobility. Seen as an eco-friendly and convenient mode of transport, they offer an alternative to those wanting to avoid car use but also reduce pressure on public transport.
Whilst in some countries there is hesitation in adoption due to unclear regulations, their popularity has gained huge traction with scooter-sharing schemes now operating in more than 100 cities across the globe. Such schemes allow users to hire an electric scooter using an app via their smartphone, similar to the way bicycle sharing schemes work.
Electric scooters are already common in cities such as Tel Aviv, Seoul, Berlin and San Francisco and electric scooter trials are currently taking place across the UK. The trials in the UK began in July 2020 and are due to run for 12 months after which the government will decide whether to legalise the use of e-scooter schemes across the UK.
One issue that comes up repeatedly around electric scooter regulation is how to safely signal your direction intentions to other road users whilst riding an e-scooter. A study conducted by the Smart Mobility Lab in France in Oct 2020, showed that one of the key issues cited against the use of electric scooters by the public was the lack of turn signals or clear direction indicating capability. Furthermore, one of the top recommendations from the German Road Safety Council was the mandatory fitting of indicator lights on electric scooters. Similar recommendations are seen off the back of the UK Transport Committee’s inquiry into escooters by the Association of British Insurers, TfL and Pure Electric (the largest scooter retailer).
Whilst the rider may feel confident to navigate through traffic and check for external dangers, other road users may be unused to the presence of electric scooters on roads or cycle lanes which can lead to accidents. Having signalling capabilities that are similar to other vehicles such as cars and mopeds can help make direction intentions clear and help fully integrate and legitimise escooters as part of the road network.
So how do you signal on an electric scooter?
Whilst using hand signals on a bicycle is relatively easy to master after a bit of practice, taking your hands away from the handlebars on an e-scooter can make you unstable and possibly lose balance. Some people have even adopted unorthodox methods such as sticking a leg out. Both are unsafe and likely to be missed by drivers who do not understand what it means given that electric scooters are still relatively new to the transport system.
WingLights by CYCL were originally developed for bicycles to help emphasize hand signalling, make direction intentions known to other road users and to improve all round visibility, particularly in low light and darkness. They address the signalling issue on electric scooters, providing an easy way to indicate.
WingLights fit into the hollows of handlebars of e-scooters and with one tap flash bright amber, mimicking the signalling method of other vehicles such as cars. They automatically turn off after 45 seconds. Made from aluminium they are robust, shockproof and waterproof. The lights provide 48 lumens powered by 2 power efficient ultra bright LEDs bulbs.
The position of indicator lights at the end of the handlebar offers optimum visibility given the shape of the electric scooter. Other indicator options currently available tend to be mounted too low to be seen by drivers (often on or near the back wheel) and centrally mounted indicator options that are attached to a backpack or clothing can often be hard to distinguish direction from a distance.
The WingLights 360 models offer a permanent sidelight function, with white front facing and red rear facing lights. This is particularly useful for electric scooters, giving 360 degree visibility of scooter width to road users approaching from behind or to the side of the scooter.
Positioning your hand so you are able to control the accelerator or brake as well as reach the end of the handlebar to activate the WingLights will take some getting used to. However, the benefits of increased all round visibility and clearer direction intentions as well as avoiding instability will make your ride far more safer for you and other road users. And with companies such as TIER and Voi launching scooters with handlebar mounted lights already installed - it is highly likely they will soon become an industry standard.
The information in this article was correct as of November 2020. Please note that in the UK if you use a hired or privately owned e-scooter outside any of the trial areas in the UK on a public road, cycle lane or pavement, you risk a fine and possible penalty points on your driving license.