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JFG Comms research identifies barriers to women’s use of rental e-scooters, and possible solutions 

JFG Communications, in partnership with Voi technology and Women in Transport, has today launched a research report on women’s views and experiences of e-scooters.

Findings include that over three-quarters (79%) of 500 survey respondents felt unsafe due to a lack of appropriate infrastructure, such as separated lanes. 

The report, titled Shared e-scooters and gender equity (PDF), was commissioned by Voi in August 2021, researched and authored by JFG Comms, and launched at a special meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Women in Transport on 16 May 2022 in the Houses of Parliament. 

It comes at a crucial time with new e-scooter regulations expected in the Government’s Transport Bill, announced in last week’s Queen’s speech. 

The study highlights findings from five focus groups and a questionnaire that involved Women in Transport members and Voi e-scooter riders.

It also features ten recommendations to address issues raised, designed in consultation with a Gender Equity Commission, chaired by Women in Transport CEO, Sonya Byers, made up of a range of women experts from across transport, academia, design and urban planning.

This approach highlights the importance of having women’s experiences and expertise involved in the design, development and regulation of shared transport.

Jo Field, President of Women In Transport and Chief Executive of JFG Communications, said:  

“The gender gap in shared e-scooter use deserves considerable attention from the micromobility sector, and anyone else concerned with gender equity in transport and the urban realm. 

“We are delighted to have partnered with Voi on this research, and to have helped develop a robust set of recommendations to move the sector forward.

“We urge policy makers and e-scooter operators to closely consider the findings and, crucially, take action based on the recommendations.” 

Fredrik Hjelm, co-founder and CEO of Voi Technology, said: 

“Our overall mission is to create safe, sustainable and reliable micromobility for everyone, and we are committed to taking women’s needs seriously. 

“We are delighted to have worked with Women in Transport and the Gender Equity Commission, and excited to be acting upon their findings and recommendations. 

“By collaborating closely with cities and governments, we can ensure that measures to address barriers that women may have in enjoying e-scooters, and feeling safe in doing so, will continue to be addressed, in particular with our new Gender Safe Parking Standard.”

Jack Samler, General Manager at Voi UK and Ireland, said:  

“In the UK we were the first micromobility operator to sign the Mayor of London’s Women’s Night Safety Charter and we have collaborated with the British Transport Police who worked with Voi employees on issues pertaining to women’s safety at night when travelling. 

“Moving forward, we will continue to support the overall company commitment to pilot night-time safety events and the Gender Safe Parking Standard in the UK.”

Shared E-Scooters and Gender Equity 

Voi was the first micromobility company to join Women in Transport, as part of its roadmap to inclusive transport and, in August 2021, in partnership with public affairs agency JFG Communications, the two organisations initiated this research processing to better understand the gender imbalance in ridership and give the opportunity to showcase women’s views on the services.

Key findings 

  • The built environment was broadly viewed as hostile – with roads considered dangerous and drivers unsympathetic or actively aggressive. Over three-quarters of all survey respondents (79%) felt that not feeling safe due to infrastructure was a barrier to not using shared e-scooters (more). 

“When I have to scoot in the same lanes as cars I'm frequently beeped at and shouted at when I know I'm not doing anything wrong.” (Focus Group 5, Mixed Group, Very regularly) 

  • It is not easy to learn or understand how and where to ride e-scooters with a complicated patchwork of regulations, private providers and a lack of safe spaces and environments for women to learn. Most riders cited learning for the first time with their peers, while most non-riders wanted a park or car-free space to learn. While most participants felt they understood the law, some non-riders described a bewilderment and fear of being unknowingly caught out and faced with difficult situations.

“If I don't know exactly what I should and shouldn't be doing […] At least when I was cycling I could say I have absolutely the right to be in the road – with e-scooters I don't have the knowledge that would give me the confidence to support this.” (Focus Group 1, Non-rider Group, Never ridden)  

  • Both the services offered, and the way e-scooters are physically designed had elements likely to prevent women from riding them where they might be helpful. E-scooters are heavy to manoeuvre and cannot carry much, while the mere fact of having to use one’s phone, faulty or frustrating technology, and local authority-imposed restrictions can impinge on women’s sense of safety and limit independent riding after dark.

“It can take quite a long time [to unlock] and sometimes you can feel a little bit unsafe when it's dark or you're in quite an isolated spot, kind of stood on the roadside.” (Focus Group 4, Regular rider Group, Fairly regularly) 

  • Those who had never ridden generally characterised e-scooter riders as being young and male. Often they did not want to be among a perceived minority of women riders, or engage in what they viewed primarily as a transgressive activity.

“It needs to be a scenario like someone commuting to work, something I can relate to. The only time I think I see people using them is for fun, playing around with their mates or getting up to no good. Those aren’t scenarios that attract me.” (Focus Group 1, Non-rider Group, Never ridden) 

Recommendations 

  1. Government(s) should provide clarity and certainty over laws around both shared and private e-scooters.
  2. Local authorities should provide clear, positive communications about the status of shared e-scooters in their regions and which providers are available.
  3. Local authorities and e-scooter operators should foster the development of social infrastructure to support the safe uptake of shared e-scooter riding, such as peer-to-peer support.
  4. Local authorities and e-scooter operators should offer more openly accessible, public training sessions for shared e-scooters in trial areas.
  5. E-scooter operators should consider an inclusive design approach to e-scooters and shared services that better accommodate different potential riders’ needs and use-cases.
  6. Local authorities and e-scooter operators should collaborate to ensure women’s transport needs and experiences inform the development of e-scooter regulation and services in specific areas, particularly the location of parking docks and development of infrastructure.
  7. Local authorities and e-scooter operators should collaborate to ensure local environments and cultures support night-time safety for women, for example, ensuring public spaces are sufficiently lit, and providing bystander awareness and education to help prevent violence and harassment of women and girls.
  8. Local and national governments should place the development of infrastructure and reallocation of road-space in our cities at the heart of their mobility frameworks, and at the top of their wider transport, environmental and public health agendas.
  9. A ‘gold standard’ for ridership monitoring should be established, and adhered to by local government, national government and e-scooter operators.
  10. E-scooter operators should report gender disaggregated annual ridership figures, including the gender gap.

Download the report 

Find out more about the Gender Equity Commission

Find out more about the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Women in Transport

Voi’s roadmap to creating an inclusive micromobility sector

Women’s Night Safety Charter