Safety of recreational scooters
by Michael Paine 5 Dec 2001.
Extract from the report "ANALYSIS OF RELATIVE SAFETY PERFORMANCE
BICYCLES AND SCOOTERS" Prepared by Michael Paine Vehicle Design and
3 January 2001
A range of bicycles and recreational scooters have been evaluated using
performance tests that were developed for bicycles. These tests
that, in general, scooters (motorised and human-powered) are less
and controllable than bicycles and, in particular, are more susceptible
to road irregularities. Sudden falls sideways into the path of passing
cars are more likely than with bicycles. Theoretical analysis of
and reaction to bumps supports this finding and suggests that
would become worse at higher speeds than those involved in the tests.
do not appear to be any ways to significantly improve the design of
to increase their stability at higher speeds.
Consideration of the human factors issues revealed that recreational
scooters require near-continuous monitoring of the state of the vehicle
by the rider, due mainly to the lack of force feedback through the
This raises a serious dilemma when the vehicle mixes with other traffic
- particularly cars - because the rider must choose between monitoring
the scooter and monitoring other traffic. In contrast, bicycle riders
take a second or two to look around because they feel feedback through
the handlebars. There is therefore a fundamental limitation to the
of recreational scooters to mix with other road traffic. The problem is
compounded by the vulnerability of scooter riders to injury in
In the case of motorised scooters, it was found that they typically
travel too fast to safely mix with pedestrian traffic. On level ground
non-motorised scooters cannot be ridden at such speeds for sustained
They are still a hazard, however, in pedestrian areas that are
or have frail or very young people.
It is recommended that:
a) recreational scooters not be permitted on any public roads where
cars are likely to travel at more than 40km/h (impacts above this speed
are much more likely to be fatal - Paine and Coxon 2000)
b) recreational scooters not be permitted in general pedestrian areas
that are congested or usually have frail or very young people.
c) local councils be encouraged to set up suitable facilities for
scooters, skateboards and similar recreational devices.
d) helmet wearing be encouraged for all scooter riders
e) motorised recreational scooters not be permitted on any public
footpaths or pedestrian areas.
f) motorised bicycles (200 W power limit) continue to be permitted
to operate on public roads but a maximum speed (on level ground under
also be specified to discourage tampering with power limiting
and to aid enforcement.
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