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The E-Scooter Craze Turns Deadly: Part II

In our March 7, 2019 blog, we discussed the surging popularity of e-scooters and the huge number of injuries being seen in Emergency Rooms across the country of e-scooter riders and pedestrians hit by riders. In this Part II, we look at the attempts by cities and states to regulate the use of e-scooters, and the injuries and fatalities that have occurred since the data was last reviewed.

FATALITY IN THE UK

On July 12, YouTube star and TV presenter Emily Hartridge was killed while riding an e-scooter in London. She reportedly died from a collision with a truck while riding her e-scooter. Hartridge was 35 at the time of her death. Only a day later, a 14 year old boy suffered a serious head injury after crashing into a bus stop in Beckenham in the UK.

Hartridge’s death is the first fatality from e-scooter use in the UK and has stunned not only her fans, but the country as well. It is illegal to ride e-scooters on public roads in the UK, but the law is not enforced and is routinely ignored by enthusiastic scooter riders.

BACK IN THE US

Consumer Reports found that 8 fatalities have occurred since the fall of 2017, one of which was in Atlanta in May of this year. While the number of deaths is relatively low, the number of injuries associated with e-scooter use is staggering: over 1,500 since 2017. (To derive these statistics, Consumer Reports surveyed 110 hospitals in 47 cities across the U.S.) In addition to the disturbing number of serious injuries being seen, 45 e-scooter crash reports have been filed with the Consumer Product Safety Commission since late 2017; the CPSC has yet to even open investigations on these crash reports.

Since being introduced in 2017, e-scooters have rapidly caught on in the micro-mobility niche market, often fulfilling the “last mile” of urban transportation. From 2017-2018, the number of rides on dockless scooters, bikes and traditional bike share systems doubled to 84 million trips, and e-scooters represented the majority of this growth. Some market experts put the global market for e-scooters at between $40-50 billion by 2025. In other words, e-scooters are here to stay.

ANARCHY IN THE STREETS

While e-scooters may be here to stay, it is where they will stay that has so many people crying foul. In Paris, where e-scooters are ubiquitous, people are declaring it “anarchy in the streets” and begging their political leaders for stricter legislation regarding the new mode of transportation. In the Netherlands, where two e-scooter companies are based, and in Amsterdam, arguably the micro-mobility capital of the world, the clutter and injuries associated with e-scooters are causing a backlash against their pervasive use.

E-scooters can go faster than bicycles and regular scooters; they can go up to 30mph. Yet they are typically not classified as vehicles, and many places—such as the UK—do not allow them to be ridden in streets. But riding such a fast-moving mode of transportation on sidewalks leads to accidents for both riders and pedestrians.

ATLANTA’S EFFORTS

Atlanta is home to 4 large companies that rent e-scooters: Lime, Bird, Lyft and Uber. In January of this year, Atlanta passed an ordinance requiring e-scooters to be ridden in streets, in bike lanes or bike paths and to be parked in designated areas; see atlantaga.gov. E-scooters are prohibited on sidewalks, and someone using one on a sidewalk can be fined up to $1,000. Atlanta also requires rental companies to obtain permits before operating in their city limits. This requirement is a direct response to the “drops” that rental companies such as Bird were engaging in: Bird began operating in Atlanta and other cities in Georgia without notifying local officials, and literally dropped e-scooters in Atlanta and other cities to start off its business in these locations.

Atlanta City Council also passed a resolution on March 4, 2019, asking hospitals and healthcare outlets to voluntarily track scooter-related injuries and share the numbers with the city. Currently, Grady Memorial Hospital, the largest hospital in Georgia, estimated that as of March 2019, it receives between 80-100 scooter-related injuries per month. The injuries range from traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) to broken bones.

Statewide, several cities have banned the use of e-scooters altogether: Marietta, Norcross, Snellville and Athens. Athens enacted its ban of e-scooters after the University of Georgia confiscated over 1,000 of the devices and billed Bird for $500,000 in impoundment fees. Other cities in Georgia are considering a ban or moratorium on e-scooter use, while other cities in Georgia are trying to work with the increasing presence of these popular dockless mobility devices. PEDS, a sidewalk advocacy group in Atlanta, recently introduced “Clear the Clutter,” a tool to track scooters illegally parked. The hope is to rid sidewalks of e-scooters discarded and left randomly after use.

CONTACT YOUR ATTORNEY

If you or someone you know has been injured from an e-scooter related accident, contact Dave Thomas at The Thomas Law Firm for a free evaluation of your legal rights.

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