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Micromobility Companies Partner on Federally Funded Safety Study

Micromobility operators Superpedestrian and Helbiz will partner with Populus to gather and analyze trip, crash, infrastructure and other data to give cities better planning tools to make bike and scooter travel safer.

A person riding an electric scooter in a bike and scooter lane.
Shutterstock/Gena Melendrez
Trip and other data will be reviewed from thousands of scooter trips in a project to improve the safety of the devices and offer cities additional tools for micromobility planning.

Populus, which collects and analyzes micromobility data, will partner with Superpedestrian and Helbiz on a project funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT). Known as the Safety Data Initiative, the project aims to use data from past events to offer a “predictive analysis” for transportation planners and other officials.

“The goal of this project is to better leverage big data available to cities to accelerate infrastructure changes that increase safety,” said Regina Clewlow, CEO of Populus. “Streets that are safer for bikes, scooters and pedestrians are streets that are safer for everyone.

“We have reached an unprecedented time when cities have access to more data than ever before,” she added. “Populus is excited to be a partner to help them make our cities more livable, safe and sustainable.”

Both Superpedestrian and Helbiz are micromobility operators, offering a range of devices like e-scooters, bikes and even electric mopeds. Helbiz operates in 10 cities in the United States, while Superpedestrian can be found in more than a dozen.

“I think our main contribution is data, particularly route data to show where people are taking trips,” said Paul Steely White, vice president for public policy at Superpedestrian.

Some of the types of data to be analyzed include infrastructure data — the locations of various bike paths, docking areas, etc. — trip data and crash data.

“Looking at those three layers, simultaneously, I believe there’s reason to believe that we’ll be able to gain some insights to inform not just the prioritization of safety infrastructure improvements — where they can make the most impact — but also gain an understanding of how riders are using the service, and perhaps other insights into how to make these modes more accessible and safer in the future,” said White.

In addition to pulling in crash data and other key data sets such as street speed limits, Populus will use its geospatial analysis to flesh out dangerous intersections and roadway segments, said Clewlow.

This particular phase of the project will be completed this summer, with the data and analysis made available to Populus customers and clients.

“We also hope to augment the trip data that we’re providing to Populus with additional rider survey data, to get a sense of how people are traveling, why they’re traveling and also what their safety perceptions are,” said White.

The aim, say micromobility operators and analysts, is to increase the safety and use of small mobility devices to make these even more ubiquitous on city streets while ultimately reducing car trips.

“We can all gain a better understanding of how safety infrastructure can increase ridership and, ultimately, replace more car trips,” said White.
Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Yreka, Calif.