E-Scooter Safety

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With news of yet another death related to riding an e-scooter, here’s some practical tips and information you can share with colleagues, employees, friends, and family.

Why e-scooters? 

Employers in larger cities likely have employees taking advantage of “last mile” solutions every day. With health and wellness programs taking off, employees may make adjustments to their commute to get mini-workouts in during the day. Actions like parking further away to save money on expensive downtown parking ramps or getting off the bus or train a mile or so from the office are great habits that promote some physical activity during the work day. Now, many people choose to take a rideshare bike or e-scooter the rest of the way.

Like riding a bike?

Not so much… electric scooters aren’t like the people-powered scooters of the 80s and 90s. Don’t scoot now if you’ve never scooted! A first-time rider, minimal safety instructions, and city sidewalks and roads are proving to be a dangerous mix in large cities throughout the US.

What’s the problem?

According to the CDC, a third of e-scooter injuries are first-time riders; and there is one injury for every 5,000 e-scooter trips. In a recent e-scooter pilot program in Chicago, over 60,000 rides occurred in one week, with over 11,000 of those rides being in the first weekend. Using the 1:5,000 stat, there may have been 12 e-scooter related injuries during this one city’s pilot program. In Austin, TX, a study found that nearly half of the injuries experienced by e-scooter riders were severe, with 160 riders injured in a 3-month period. Injuries included bone fractures and severe bleeding. In the Austin, TX study, nearly 48% of the riders suffered head injuries, with 33% of those injured being first time riders, the median age of the riders was 29.

In Nashville, the Mayor recently notified seven e-scooter companies that a pilot program would end and e-scooters would be banned on the city’s streets after a death involving a 26-year-old who rode an e-scooter and was found to have had more than twice the legal limit of alcohol in their system. There have been deaths in Atlanta, Washington, D.C., Dallas, Chula Vista, CA, San Diego, CA, and Cleveland, OH related to e-scooters. Paris, France had their first deadly incident involving an e-scooter and officials have set e-scooter speed limits and fines for riding e-scooters on sidewalks.

In addition to rider safety concerns, the free-for-all nature of the e-scooters poses problems for those in wheelchairs, those who use mobility aids like canes and walkers, and those who push strollers on city sidewalks. City sidewalks appear littered with cleverly-named e-scooters awaiting their next rider.

And then there’s this photo from a Fox News story about how Baltimore, MD is approaching e-scooters – the photo shows an adult riding an e-scooter with a child between them and the handlebars.

Mobility lanes in Baltimore, Maryland.

Original photo caption and credit: Mobility lanes in Baltimore, Maryland. (Fox News / Talia Kirkland)

What’s being done for safety?

Some e-scooter companies have had to post cards on the handlebars to indicate rules of the road, usually riding restrictions mandated by the city. Very limited safety information is communicated through the various apps. With injuries involving riders being thrown over the handlebars and experiencing injuries to the head, neck, shoulders, one would think head protection could help prevent fatalities and serious injuries related to e-scooters. The majority of e-scooter riders do not use a helmet. I spoke with a safety helmet distributor to find out if they recommend their helmets be used by e-scooter riders. They said while their helmets are not the optimal PPE for the scooters, but it’s better than nothing!

One e-scooter company, Wheels, is developing a newer model with a helmet attached. It will also include disposable liners to reduce hygiene concerns about sharing a helmet with strangers.

If you still want to try riding an e-scooter…

Scoot with proper footwear: closed toe shoes that are tied or otherwise secured on your feet.

If you carry a handbag, backpack, or messenger bag, try to balance the load evenly.

Scoot without your ear buds or headphones in so you can listen, look, and adjust to traffic on the street, bike lane, and/or sidewalk.

Travel at a rate of speed that you feel safe and is within the limits posted by the e-scooter company or local jurisdiction. Speed and road conditions have contributed to most injuries involving e-scooters.

Wear a helmet: plan your scoot ahead of time, and bring a bike helmet.

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