Anatomy of an Electric Scooter Crash

People ride Lime and Bird scooters along the strand in Santa Monica, Calif.

People ride Lime and Bird scooters along the strand in Santa Monica, Calif. Richard Vogel/AP

The rise of the rented e-scooter has also brought safety fears and injury-related lawsuits. What happens when a new mobility mode meets the American legal system?

Grace heard a gasp, then the line went dead.

It was a freezing night—my hands were numb, my toes icy—but I’d wanted to call her, my college roommate, on the way home from work, so I took a scooter instead of a subway. I figured I could jam my wireless headphones in, talk, and ride. Before you ask: No, I was not wearing a helmet, and yes, it was winter-dark at 7 o’clock.

So I was stupid, maybe, and distracted, definitely. But as I zipped through Washington D.C.’s Dupont Circle—where just this September a scooter rider died after being struck by an SUV—my Bird suddenly slowed, then stopped entirely. It fell, and I fell with it. The call was dropped. “Holy shit Sarah are you okay,” Grace texted.

I’ve been an avid user of shared electric scooters since the things descended on D.C. last spring, accepting the risk therein. I’d hopped on various models with broken brakes before, only to swiftly hop off and park safely. I’d heard others complain about sticky accelerators. This sudden motor failure, however, was new. It didn’t seem to be a battery issue—the charge had been at 75 percent when I hopped on; 66 percent when I locked it, shaken, after. Something had gone very wrong.

When the issue of e-scooter safety is raised—and, if you spend any time talking to people in cities where this polarizing new urban mobility mode has emerged, it will—scooter fans like to counter with this stat: Cars kill 40,000 Americans a year, and they emit climate-warming gases while doing it. While scooter-related emergency room visits appear to be on the rise since these little dockless vehicles hit America’s roads, hard numbers about their serious injury rate remain elusive. The CDC plans to conduct its first epidemiological scooter study in Austin, Texas, to better quantify the public health risks they may or may not pose.

Some scooter-safety panic might be attributable to their sheer novelty. We’ve become immune to the daily toll of automotive crashes. And disruptive transportation technologies often brings fears, some legitimate: Early airplanes were said to upset chickens on the farms below; 19th-century bicycles afflicted riders with “bicycle face,” doctors once warned. But part of successfully introducing a new mode of transportation—especially one with revolutionary environmental potential—is figuring out how to get its users from point A to B intact, preferably without annoying or hurting others in the process.

Along with the e-scooter backlash have come the lawsuits. Perhaps the most high-profile case was filed in October, when Bird and Lime, along with two manufacturers of the vehicles they use, Segway and Xiaomi, became the subject of a putative class action suit filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court. Nine plaintiffs accused the companies of “indiscriminate, negligent, grossly negligent and/or unlawful ‘deployment’ … of fleets of defective” scooters in the city. The case is still pending.

Faced with legal challenges like this and threats of more citywide bans, the scooter industry has lately become more intentional about making safety a priority. Lime recently released an upgraded Gen 3 model with stronger safety features, like bigger wheels and extra rear brakes. Birds’ new Bird Zero models have gotten more rugged, too. In August, Bird also announced a plan to launch a Global Safety Advisory Committee focused on both rider and pedestrian wellbeing. To address charges that riders endanger sidewalk users, the company pledged to donate $1 per day per vehicle to building protected bike lanes in the cities where it operates.

Read the rest of the story at CityLab.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.