E-scooters are new to United States’ public transportation. Cities like Los Angeles and Austin have supported public e-scooter programs for a few years. These cities now have enough safety and efficiency data to start identifying the fatal dangers to e-scooter riders and how cities might prevent pedestrian deaths.
New data for a new industry
New York City just recently announced the new e-scooter program coming to the metro area. The new public transportation option offers flexibility, speed, and, most importantly, another choice for commuters. However, e-scooters are a very new addition to pedestrian and vehicle traffic and many cities are struggling to ensure the safety of riders. Since 2018, 30 people have died while operating an e-scooter, but as more cities adopt these programs, this number is likely to rise.
In Austin, data from collisions with e-scooters pointed to nighttime being the riskiest factor in collisions. However, in Nashville, intersections and sidewalk-riding proved the most dangerous for e-scooters. Researchers at the University of Tennessee conclude that these combined data points imply that cities do not have sufficient infrastructure to safely support e-scooter transportation.
Shaping city policy
The University of Tennessee’s researchers can draw similarities to bicycle safety. Bikes are more popular with a longer history, yet cities have only recently adapted their infrastructure to increase bicycle safety. Bike lanes are now commonly placed between the sidewalk and street parking, rather than adjacent to moving traffic. Many cities apply bicycle rules to e-scooter transportation, but these laws do little to protect operators:
- Where cities ban e-scooters on sidewalks, many operators do not comply, since parking and charging stations are usually located on sidewalks.
- E-scooters do not operate well within bike lanes, where their slower speed can force dangerous maneuvers into vehicle traffic.
- Intersection rules for bicyclists do not help e-scooter operators as they attempt to move through intersections and in the way of unwary drivers.
The future of e-scooters
Laws regulating e-scooter use in major metro areas will most likely find their definitions in the courtroom, where lawyers and accident victims can make their case for safer policy and increased protections. Pedestrians injured while operating an e-scooter can reach out to a local lawyer to explore legal avenues for medical restitution.