The recent death of a popular British YouTube personality in an electric scooter accident has prompted renewed calls for tighter regulation of the personal transport devices.
Actress Emily Hartridge, 35-year-old host of the YouTube comedy video series, “Ten Reasons Why,” was killed July 12 when the scooter she was riding collided with a bus in a London roundabout. Well before that tragedy, e-scooters had been drawing increasing ire as an unregulated public nuisance, but Hartridge’s death drew attention to a more serious impact: the threat they are posing to life and limb.
The evidence of injuries and deaths has been mounting. In April, a study by the Austin Public Health Department found that e-scooters were responsible for 190 injuries — 48 percent of them head injuries — in that Texas city during a three-month period last year.
Studies in other cities have produced similar findings. In January, the Journal of the American Medical Association reported on one that was conducted at two Los Angeles hospital emergency rooms over a one-year span. The study identified 249 scooter-related injuries, 228 of them to riders. Forty percent were head injuries and nearly a third were fractures. Only 4.4% of the patients were wearing helmets while riding.
Despite all the negatives, however, even critics admit that e-scooters offer a cheap, clean transportation option that can help reduce traffic congestion. Seeking to strike a balance between public safety and enhanced transportation, many cities and states are passing laws and ordinances that are attempting to provide some order to the disorder:
Meanwhile, the SAE Industry Technologies Consortia, an organization that includes governmental and private-sector partners, has launched an effort to assist local governments in developing best standards for developing e-scooter regulations. The group encourages the use of technological tools to enhance safety, including the use of “geofencing,” which automatically reduces scooter speeds in certain geographic areas.
Our cities are too often congested by too many automobiles, so e-scooters provide a great new option for people to get from Point A to Point B quickly, cheaply, and cleanly. But their introduction into the transportation mix also introduces risks to users and pedestrians alike.
In April, the National Association of City Transportation Officials reported that Americans took 84 million trips on shared scooters and bikes last year—more than twice as many as the previous year. The organization’s executive director, Corinne Kisner, said that, as a result, cities are in a position to determine a future that is best for users and pedestrians alike.
“Cities are proactively thinking about how to harness the incredible potential of these shared services in the public right-of-way,” she said. “As stewards of the public realm, it is vital that cities retain authority over their streets.”
You might be an e-scooter user who loves the convenience. And you might be the kind of pedestrian who finds their presence annoying. Whichever the case, it’s important to recognize that you’ll need to give some ground as cities develop plans to keep the peace and keep people safe.