Megan Ryerson Testifies to City Council on Scooters’ Role in Safe Transportation

Ryerson spoke to Philadelphia City Council Committee on Transportation and Public Utilities about the safety of sharable electric scooters and how they could complement the city’s transportation infrastructure.

By Lauren Salig

Sharable electric scooters are an increasingly popular mode of transportation, both celebrated and scrutinized for their capacity to revolutionize urban mobility. In Philadelphia, this revolution looms closer as Pennsylvania assesses a bill to legalize electric scooters on public streets.

On February 26, the City Council Committee on Transportation and Public Utilities explored considerations surrounding the introduction of scooters on Philadelphia streets, with representation from scooter companies BIRD and Lime, city officials, and transportation experts and advocates.

Megan Ryerson, UPS Chair of Transportation and Associate Dean for Research in Penn’s Weitzman School of Design and Associate Professor of Electrical and Systems Engineering in Penn Engineering, spoke to council members about scooters’ role as an ally in safe mobility.

Ryerson is also the research director of Mobility21, a research partnership that takes a multidisciplinary approach to transportation issues. Drawing on Penn faculty from Engineering, Design, Law, Wharton and CHOP, the partnership also has members at Carnegie Melon University, the Community College of Allegheny County and The Ohio State University.

In her testimony, Ryerson talked about how recognizing electric scooters in Philadelphia could help with larger transportation issues.

“Today, among peer cities, Philadelphia has the dubious distinction of having the highest rate of traffic deaths per capita. Nearly half are pedestrians and cyclists; 10 percent are, heartbreakingly, children,” said Ryerson.

These statistics show only the most devastating impact of imperfect infrastructure and, according to Ryerson, don’t fully portray the problems in the system. The dangers of transportation lead to overall reduced mobility, as many people, especially elders and children, are unable or afraid to navigate the streets unaccompanied.

But Ryerson testified that incorporating scooters into Philadelphia’s infrastructure could have a positive impact on residents’ mobility if implemented properly.

“New scooter riders increase drivers’ awareness of everything moving on the road that isn’t a car. The safety in numbers phenomenon encourages more people to get out and bike, scoot or walk,” Ryerson said at the city council meeting.

By increasing visibility and awareness of alternative modes of transport, including non-motorized transportation, scooters could increase overall mobility and accelerate infrastructure development. Ideally, this type of infrastructure change could help Philadelphia meet its Vision Zero goal of having no traffic deaths by 2030.

Ryerson urged the city to recognize electric scooters as part of Philadelphia’s transportation system by taking two actions: first, monitoring the safety of scooters themselves without imposing undue restrictions on them, and second, using scooters as an impetus to create separate lanes for alternative modes of transportation on Philadelphia streets.

“Fundamentally, complete streets — with protected spaces for vehicles, bikes and scooters, and pedestrians — make movement safer, more efficient, more reliable and more enjoyable for all,” concluded Ryerson.

The HB 631 bill to legalize electric, low-speed scooters in Pennsylvania has been referred to the Transportation Committee in Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives.

Watch Ryerson’s full testimony here or read the transcript here.