Marc Elster rides an electric scooter in Washington, E-Scooters have grown in popularity, and now ride-related injuries are a common sight at the George Washington University Hospital, according to Dr. Kate Douglass.
A Little Context
When the Segway first rolled onto the scene in 2002, it was billed as the next piece of machinery that would push us into the Jet Jetson era.
The Segway first rolled onto the scene in 2002
But with a price point rocketing up over $4,000, and it’s heavy and unwieldy nature, it fell back to earth into novelty waters.
Flash forward and its spiritual successor began whirring onto clogged American commutes.
Marc says he rents scooters often, even throughout the winter, because they’re fun and convenient.
At a bargain price of $100 to $500, a lighter, more convenient frame — and an easier learning curve — E-Scooter companies began seeing their stocks take off.
And their products flood onto American streets.
They were billed as able to do what the Segways failed to achieve — to save the world’s transportation system, and by a result:
Save the world.
After all, “they offer a convenient, affordable way to travel short distances without getting in an emission-spewing car.”
They also solved the long-standing dilemma that plagued the modern office-worker — how do I get to Starbucks and back in 15 minutes, in the middle of lunch commute?
Different options: How do I get to Starbucks and back in 15 minutes, in the middle of lunch commute?
Instead, the word e-scooter causes a blast of headaches and migraines over the mention of this nuisance. But why would that be?
To The Frontlines of the E-Scooter Battle
Ask the medical team at George Washington University Hospital, where something is quickly becoming a norm.
“Almost during every shift, you’ll see somebody come in with an extremity injury, or a head injury, or a laceration, or something along those lines,” laments Dr. Kate Douglass in an NPR interview.
Yet with the unending wave of injuries, the most dismaying thing is this:
That many didn’t even have to happen in the first place.
A University of California study in the journal of Emergency Medicine discovered that almost 40 percent of the injuries were to the head, and only 5 percent of the scooter users observed were wearing helmets.
Most common injuries per category following A University of California study in the journal of Emergency Medicine
I’m sure that you were always one to wear a helmet when you yanked your old rusty bike out day after day, right?
But let’s assume that everyone heeded the sage advice of our wise parents and ate our pride by wearing that “lame” headgear.
Will the scooter become safer as a result of a simple wardrobe change? Unfortunately, yes and no.
It might mitigate those gruesome head injuries, but there’s something else at play here.
Physics may be the bigger problem.
What happens on a bike? Sure, you propel the bike forward using pedals, which move as the bike does. Not only that, but your body sways to balance out each angle the bike takes.
E = MC Whoops: Dangers of E-Scooters
Physics may be the bigger problem.
But on a scooter, your base is planted and stationary.
So when that thing jolts forward, your body finds it hard to adjust. It’s even harder to stop on a dime when it’s zipping along full-blast.
And then your unhelmeted face adjusts to some jagged concrete.
But your safety is not the only thing to consider.
Scooters can reach speeds of up to 30mph or more, and that makes for a dangerous cauldron of accidents, especially when you consider where e-scooters operate.
Although things are improving, bad roads are a common sight all over America and Europe.
While users do operate in the streets, more still fly along sidewalks already clogged with bicyclists and strolling families.
These cramped routes are lurking with a host of surprises:
- Bounding, carefree children.
- Unsuspecting animals leaping from bushes
- Homes, and parks that hug and constrict each path.
- Not to mention potholes, grates, rain, and ice.
Now add a zipping e-scooter, and the recipe is there for catastrophe.
So unless riders have Spiderman-level reflexes, then catastrophes will continue to happen.
How Cities Are Fighting Back: E-Scooter Laws
And with their sudden burst onto the scene, cities have found themselves scrambling to regulate this whirring tsunami buzzing over their streets.
A snipped from San Antonio Plan to integrate the e scooter into the town and society
Governments tried introducing legislation to curb the threat this new trend poses, such as locking users to the streets.
Other cities in Europe, especially Slovenia, have mandated that you can’t ride faster than walking speed while in public spaces, according to Angela Charlton’s Associated Press Report.
And yet in many US states, they are not classified into the same categories as cars.
The District of Columbia puts them into the “personal mobility device” category, in the same company as skateboards.
And since drivers licenses are towering barriers to 10-year-old Timmy and his dreams of driving dad’s sweet 70’s Porsche, that shiny e-scooter holds no such obstacle.
And with an alarmingly high number of child injuries due to e-scooters, discretion lies with the parents here.
We sit through hours of driving school, and so they become second nature.
The rules of the road are set when it comes to cars. We sit through hours of driving school, and so they become second nature.
We expect our fellow man to follow them, for our safety and theirs.
But the e-scooter is not privy to these rules. Some ride in the streets, while others roam the sidewalks.
Some follow traffic rules, while others flout them.
Even if basic rules of the road are followed, such as signaling, there are no turn signals on an e-scooter. And until a set or norms becomes agreed to between the warring modes of transportation, then misunderstanding will continue resulting in injuries, or worse.
To Conclude – Use the right protective measures
So Are E-Scooters Safe?
Of course, they are.
Even with all of the hazards posed by a piece of machinery that can zip you from your workplace to your break time cafe in five minutes, the same rules that shield bicyclists will also protect you as you feel the wind on your face on your shiny new toy:
- Wear protective gear – our brains are important
- Stop with the earbuds – Drake’s new song can wait
- Use common sense – it goes a long way
- Slow down when going downhill – it will hurt less
- Keep your head on a swivel – anything that can go wrong, will.
- Keep 20 fingers, and 2 hands on the handlebar – you’re not Evel Knievel
- If lights don’t come equipped, then buy external lights for your helmet – because cars will not see you otherwise
Studies show that 80% of injuries are not due to head-on collisions with objects, but from that little bump on the road that throws scooterers off.
Or, for whatever reason, they just fall.
So it all comes down to a healthy dose of speed maintenance, risk aversion, and just a little bit of grace.
And as with all new things, examples must be set. So park in a place free from your fellow man. Should your stationary scooter cause an accident for a bicyclist, or another e-scooterer, well…
You know what they say about karma.
And for Pete’s sake, once again…
Watch your speed.
You’re not the only one enjoying the day.