Aimed at promoting environment-friendly choices, e-scooter ride-sharing certainly is a welcome initiative. And it’s nice to be able to rent a scooter in an instant to get where you need in a large city, right?
Well, things haven’t gone as smoothly as some people – particularly, companies like Lime or Bird that offer ride-share services – might have hoped.
The e-scooter-sharing system isn’t a brand-new thing. It appears that the first company to launch an e-scooter ride-sharing service was Scoot Networks in San Francisco back in 2012. However, it was not until 2017 that the scooter-sharing business saw rapid growth, mostly in Europe. And in 2018, the growth was picked up in the US.
It would be an understatement to say that the rapid introduction of scooter-sharing services was problematic for cities around the US. Perhaps the first problem to show itself was the clutter of scooters lying around cities. With no regulations in place to control where you can leave rented e-scooters, cities had to quickly take measures to manage the mess that e-scooter ride-sharing had created.
In San Francisco, for example, a bill was passed in spring 2018 to limit the number of scooter rental companies and the number of scooters each could operate. This was in response to complaints from city supervisors and citizens.
And as San Francisco City Supervisor Aaron Peskin said, these issues could have been avoided if the rental companies had collaborated with authorities in advance instead of having to hurriedly regulate everything after the fact.
The clutter caused by ride-share e-scooters isn’t the only problem with this system though. There is one issue – perhaps more important – which we want to touch upon today. That issue is scooter safety.
According to Consumer Reports, since late 2017, around 1,500 people in the US have been injured in an e-scooter-related accident. It appears that most of these incidents have been associated with the advent of e-scooter ride-sharing services in cities across the US.
Fractures, concussions, or other injuries requiring surgery – these were among the consequences of incidents that riders of e-scooters have gotten themselves into. And the most notable thing about these accidents is that very few of those injured wore helmets or other safety equipment.
Why? Well, it appears that wearing helmets while using a rented e-scooter isn’t really enforced by either companies or authorities. At least, not everywhere. Not only that, it takes just a few seconds to rent an e-scooter via a mobile app and get going.
As some medical experts suggested to Consumer Reports, renting an e-scooter is often an impulsive decision. And if you come across a rentable e-scooter on the street, you are very unlikely to have safety gear on you. You either have to just happen to have a helmet and protection pads with you, or you have left home with the intent to rent an e-scooter and thus have prepared accordingly.
While there appears not to be enough data comparing how many renters have worn helmets versus e-scooter owners, there’s one study that shows that most people using ride-share services aren’t wearing safety gear. Consumer Reports cites a study published on Seattle’s bike-share program, according to which 91% of bike owners wore helmets, whereas only 20% of bike share-riders did.
E-scooter ride-share companies don’t yet have programs that would effectively encourage the public to wear safety gear when share-riding. They sure do provide you with safety recommendations and remind that you should wear safety gear when riding an e-scooter, but what prevents you from renting a scooter without safety gear?
It’s standing right in front of you, and the only thing that you need to do is to scan the code on the scooter to get going. Oh, and e-scooter rental is very affordable – for example, Bird charges $1 per use and 15 cents per minute of the ride.
This isn’t terribly cheap, but nor is it expensive. Where ride-sharing is insanely cheap though is in the third-world Asian country where the writer of this post is from – here, you can rent a ride-share bike for an hour for just around $0.75! As you might have guessed, safety gear is a problem here as well, but that’s a little different story.
What Measures Are Taken To Ensure E-Scooter’s Safety?
There are some efforts taken in the US to provide renters with helmets for their rides. Seattle tested helmet kiosks, for example. As Elliot Martin, a research and development engineer at the University of California, Berkeley’s Transportation Sustainability Research Center, says, this may not be the most effective and cost-efficient solution, but it’s at least something done to provide renters with safety gear.
In some areas of US, helmets are required by law, but it’s unclear whether such regulations have helped prevent severe injuries related to ride-share e-scooters. As Consumer Reports mentioned on multiple occasions in their post, reports on e-scooter incidents are limited, and in some medical centers or police departments, e-scooter-related accidents may be counted in together with other scooter accidents.
Needless to say, this makes data analysis difficult or perhaps even nearly impossible. But hopefully, seeing the influx of people injured during e-scooter rides, public agencies will begin to carefully collect related data.
What Should You Do To Ensure Your Safety
Right now, how the safety gear issue will be resolved appears to be unclear. Ultimately, this most likely depends on how authorities decide to enforce helmets, if they haven’t already done so. Will they fine those renters caught without safety gear? Or will they oblige ride-share companies to ensure that each of their e-scooters comes with safety gear?
Time will show.
Well, you should first check out your local laws and see whether wearing a helmet is required. If it is, you could be fined for not wearing one during a ride.
If there are no regulations enforcing helmets, then ensuring your safety is your own responsibility. Do not rent e-scooters (or other share-ride means of transportation for that matter) if you don’t have safety gear with you, even if it isn’t forbidden by law.
The ecological initiative carried out by ride-share companies is certainly welcome. But while caring about your environment, make sure to take care of yourself as well.