Comparing the bad media-fuelled reputation of e-scooters with real-life user and non-user perceptions: Evidence from Sweden

Pontus Wallgren, Oskar Rexfelt, Alexandros Nikitas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

E-scooters, one of the most rapidly growing forms of micromobility globally, entered our cities as an innovative first and last-mile travel mode looking to complement public transit and reduce short car trips. However, there are many voices openly suggesting that e-scooters, despite representing still a very low modal share, have instead been the source of traffic accidents, transport system disruption and public space anarchy. Despite a wealth of e-scooter research appearing lately, knowledge gaps about e-scooters’ current reputation and how this matches actual user and non-user perceptions do exist. Our two-phase mixed method approach means to fill in these gaps by examining the intriguing context of Sweden, a country hosting more than 30 million e-scooter trips on an annual basis but recently enforcing new stricter rules for their regulation. This paper contributes to the state of the art by contextualising the current reputation of e-scooters in Sweden through a discourse analysis of local press items and by analysing an attitudinal survey that ran in Stockholm and Gothenburg with almost equal numbers of e-scooter users and non-users. First our news item analysis identifies six reputation-defining themes: cityscape fit; traffic safety and irresponsible user behaviour; rules, regulations and exploits; business; sustainability; and convenience and concludes that e-scooters’ portrayal in Sweden is very negative. There are approximately five negative comments in the press for every positive one. Our survey offers statistical evidence that there are significant differences in the evaluations of users and non-users when it comes to seven perceived e-scooter qualities (safety; speed; eco-friendliness; cost; convenience; fun; health and wellbeing) and two policy practicalities (regulations clarity; and parking provision). Users’ perceptions are always more positive from those of non-users, but they do agree with them that safety, eco-friendliness, cost, health and wellbeing are areas of concern for e-scooters. Both groups see value in enhanced regulation clarity and better parking provision. Non-users however, to some degree, do recognise that e-scooters offer fast, convenient and pleasant mobility services making this the tripole where image change and positive rebranding could start from.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)189-203
Number of pages15
JournalTransportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour
Volume99
Early online date28 Oct 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2023

Cite this