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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Unsafe at Any Speed?: What the Literature Says about Low-Speed Modes

  • Author(s): Rodier, Caroline
  • Shaheen, Susan A.
  • Chung, Stephanie
  • et al.

The literature is reviewed on the safety of low-speed modes in the pedestrian environment, including walking, bicycling, skating, skateboarding, riding scooters, and operating wheelchairs, as part of a research and feasibility analysis of a pilot project that introduces shared Segway Human Transporters (HT), electric bikes, and bikes linked to a suburban Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) District station and employment centers in Northern California. Advocates of the disabled, pedestrians, and the elderly have raised a number of concerns about the safety of the Segway HT in the pedestrian environment and its use has been banned in a few cities in California. The literature review provides insight into potential safety issues that may need to be addressed in the pilot project. A number of conclusions are made based on the results of this review. First, the risk of being injured while using a low-speed mode is relatively small. Second, most low-speed mode crashes do not involve collisions with other low-speed modes or motor vehicles (63% to 80%). Third, and not surprisingly, crash frequency in non-road and road environments appear to be related to the frequency with which the low-speed mode uses the environment. Fourth, the most common risk factors for low-speed mode crashes are surface conditions, user and motor vehicle driver error, obscured driver vision, and low-speed mode design characteristics.

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