You may have seen scooters whizzing by at reckless speeds lately, often with a helmetless young driver. The rise of ‘micro mobility’ is in a nascent stage. Driverless vehicles will not be on a road near you in the coming year, and car sharing is an issue for some, but scooters and e-bikes launched by Bird, Lime, and Revel are safer in COVID times since they are open air. The new mobility is changing the face of urban transportation, but with new scooter safety challenges.
Solving a major challenge
Like any new technology, vehicles such as scooters were developed to ease congestion, help workers get home on the ‘last mile’ and generally improve the standard of living for city residents. However, in classic Silicon Valley lore such as Facebook’s motto of “move fast and break things” and Uber’s blatant violation of regulations, many of these companies started simply by dropping off scooters on street corners.
It was the role of city officials to create scooter policy. Governments had to learn to create rules for these vehicles. Complicating the matter were injuries and deaths. As an example “Revel’s shared electric scooter program recently restarted in New York City after three deaths in two months. In a high-profile case, local NYC news reporter Nina Kapur was killed as a passenger without a helmet on a Revel scooter.
Staying safe on the road
Riding a scooter is a fun and easy – but dangerous – way to get around. Granted, the media focuses on the few deaths, but many scooter injuries are not reported. Fresh air is good in helping curb the spread of COVID, but just as you need to wear a mask, you must also wear a helmet. While 30 mph may not seem fast, this is still an unprotected human.
Many people are not fully comfortable driving scooters and need to practice in a high stress environment and learn to balance. Many accidents are not just the result of scooters colliding with cars. Scooter drives must avoid not just cars, but other scooters, bikes and pedestrians.
How cities deal with scooters
Tel Aviv issues fines for not wearing helmets, and that could be a good deterrent in other cities. This article highlights challenges facing city officials: “Scooters are not being used as intended and need to be more tightly regulated. A lot of people are still riding these scooters, and they seem to be up to no good,” said Michael Rogers, Dallas’ transportation director.” In general, something used initially to relieve strain on the transportation system has become a liability. This dilemma is typical with many new technologies – some segments of the population abuse these tools, but a level of normalcy returns, as with ride sharing.
If anything epitomizes the mindset of the scooter companies it is this: “Several companies initially gained the industry reputation of “begging for forgiveness rather than first asking for permission” after launching electric scooter fleets without consulting city officials.” Cities will learn to set limits, but it is still the responsibility of riders to take proper safety precautions.
When new technology bursts onto the scene, it can be seen as a godsend in helping solve problems, but other problems tend to arise. We cannot control how cities deal with scooters, but we can control the safety precautions we take. Wearing a helmet could be the difference between life and death on a scooter.