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RIDESHARE SCOOTERS: The new scooters zipping across town

Rideshare scooters, sometimes known as dockless scooters, are now appearing in cities across the country as an inexpensive way to combat urban gridlock using clean energy. In recent weeks, Lexington, Kentucky has seen two rideshare scooter companies start operations in the city: Neutron Holdings, Inc. doing business as “Lime,” and Skinny Labs Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of the Ford Motor Company, doing business as “Spin.” See www.li.me/electric-scooter and www.spin.app.

Although generally popular, the introduction of rideshare scooters has caused controversy in other cities. In California, the Los Angeles Times reported in August 2018 that some residents, angry at the rapid proliferation of scooter users zipping around traffic without obeying traffic signals, had taken to vandalizing the scooters, cramming them into toilets, tossing them off balconies, even setting some on fire. See https://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-bird-scooter-vandalism-20180809-story.html.

Mixing scooters with automobiles and trucks can lead to accidents between scooter riders and other vehicles. Riders who are unfamiliar with scooter operation may find them a challenge. Unskilled or intoxicated riders can be a danger to themselves, pedestrians, and other traffic.

Scooter users are supposed to obey all applicable traffic laws. In Lexington, government ordinance limits scooters to 15 miles per hour and requires users to follow the rules for bicycles and all applicable state and federal laws. Adults in Kentucky are not required to wear bicycle helmets, and there is no Kentucky requirement for helmet use by scooter users.

See Lexington-Fayette County Code of Ordinances, Chapter 17D (“Dockless Vehicles”), at https://library.municode.com/ky/lexington-fayette_county/codes/code_of_ordinances?nodeId=COOR_CH17DDOVE.

Injuries from scooter use

The dangers of scooter operation have not been ignored by medical professionals. Earlier this year, the online medical journal JAMA Network Open published a study on the types of injuries associated with standing scooter users, and the characteristics and behaviors of these injured patients. Noting that since September 2017 standing electric scooters have “proliferated rapidly as an inexpensive, easy mode of transportation” the study’s authors observed that while local governments and scooter companies have established regulations and rules for safe riding, research into actual riding practices and injuries associated with scooters was needed.

The researchers conducted a medical-record review of all persons presenting to two emergency departments in urban Southern California, between September 1, 2017, and August 31, 2018. They found that about 11% of the injured were under 18 years of age, and only 4.4% had been wearing helmets.

Some 80.2% of the riders had been injured in falls, with 11% hurt by collision with an object, and 8.8% hit by a moving vehicle (8.8%). The most common injuries were soft-tissue injuries, i.e. bruising, sprains, and lacerations (27.7%); bone fractures (31.7%); and an alarming rate of head injuries (40.2%). Some 4.8% of the patients had been intoxicated.

The researchers also reported on an effort to observe scooter riders in the local community, finding that of 193 riders observed in September 2018, only 11 were wearing helmets.

See TK Trivedi, et al., Injuries Associated with Standing Electric Scooter Use. JAMA Network Open. 2019;2(1):e187381 (Jan. 25, 2019), available online at https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2722574.