Evaluation of electric scooter deployment in the City of Helsinki: A perspective on sociotechnical transitions dynamics and adaptive governance

Miloš Mladenović*, Samira Dibaj, Daniel Lopatnikov

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report

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As part of a wider global transition in urban environments and their mobility systems, Finland and in particular Helsinki, has seen emergence of shared or private, standing, rechargeable lithium-ion battery-electric scooters (e-scooters). Following an increase in the number of emergency cases in the spring and summer of 2021, City of Helsinki has agreed with shared e-scooter operators to introduce a set of temporal and speed restrictions. However, the need for understanding the dynamics of socio-technical transition involving e-scooters and developing the corresponding adaptive governance processes has remained. Thus, this project has focused on the twofold and interdependent problem. The first aspect in focus is behavioural change of urban mobility system users, especially focusing on e-scooter users. The second aspect is institutional change among multi-level/sector transition actors, including all the parties involved in this project and beyond.
Overall, the project had four research questions, with corresponding methods. First, in order to understand the surface problem of objective traffic safety, the goal was to analyse spatio-temporal changes in the occurrence and severity of emergency cases. The methods used for this goal centred on retrospective analysis of e-scooter and bicycle related emergency cases. Second, to further understand the revealed behaviour and competences while riding e-scooters, the method focused on the analysis of streetscape video recordings at several locations in the City of Helsinki. Third, for analysing deeper perspectives on user behaviour but also for understanding perspectives from non-users, an online questionnaire and corresponding analysis were deployed. Last, in order to provide suggestions for developing responsible and adaptive governance processes, collaborative research methods have relied on site inspections of street infrastructure and multi-stakeholder interaction focused on a policy design framework.
The study finds that the safety level of e-scooter usage in Helsinki has improved over time, approaching the estimated level of safety for cycling. However, intoxication while riding has remained an issue also in 2022. In addition, the e-scooter observations revealed that about a quarter of riders showed very non-cooperative riding behaviours, which also varied based on street infrastructure. Besides these safety issues, other problematic behaviour observed was parents/adults riding with a child on the same e-scooter. Similarly, observational analysis also shows significant use of e-scooters by users under the age of 18, also associated with more unsafe behaviour. Analysis of questionnaire data shows that although most e-scooter users are males aged from late 20s to early 30s, usage in Helsinki includes all income groups and age categories. Leisure and socializing activities are the most common trip purposes, followed by commuting, which is even more common for those using a private e-scooter. In addition, shared e-scooter usage in Helsinki is mostly replacing buses or trams, taxi or other on-demand mobility services, and walking, while private e-scooter usage is more clearly associated with a reduction in private car driving. The most cited reasons for using e-scooters include being in a hurry and trying to travel faster than with other modes, as well as e-scooter riding providing a fun experience. The most cited reasons for not using e-scooters include being satisfied with the current means of travel, lack of a clear necessity, and perceived safety of riding in Helsinki. Both users and non-users agree that there is a need to improve street infrastructure, with non-users suggesting more often the need to improve rules, while users suggesting more often the need to improve parking behaviour.
Study recommends further co-development of policies in collaboration between different stakeholders to enable agonistic deliberation about different policy actions, by identifying their effectiveness in terms of behavioural change, as well as their implementability. Further policy measures should be developed and enforced in coordination with both the public and private sector campaigns and educational programs. Moreover, such agonistic collaboration efforts should rely on development of data collection and sharing procedures among different stakeholders. Besides overarching policies, there is a clear need to improve cycling infrastructure and the use of temporary traffic arrangements in specific locations in Helsinki. Finally, if Finland is to be at the forefront of urban mobility system transformation, there is a need to further develop a culture of adaptive multi-stakeholder governance in the transport sector and beyond.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherAalto University
Number of pages116
ISBN (Electronic)978-952-64-9624-5
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2022
MoE publication typeD4 Published development or research report or study


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