Understanding The 4 Major Points In The Debate Over Electric Scooters

Electric scooters are growing in popularity in cities across the United States due to their convenience and ease of use to get around crowded downtown areas. Similar to electric cars, electric scooters are powered by a rechargeable battery and can reach top speeds around 20MPH. This means that business people, tourists, and everyday commuters can travel from home to work on an electric scooter efficiently throughout the day. These scooters have grown in popularity because they are functional and convenient, but there are several issues surrounding the use of electric scooters that have caused city officials and local citizens to put the future of these scooters into question. Parties on both sides have concerns about the personal safety of riders, local law enforcement, and the safety of other vehicles on the roads that could be impacted by electric scooters on public roads. Let’s take a look at these issues to see how city officials and public lawmakers can come together to create a future that will allow electric scooters to help citizens travel around city limits safely and efficiently!

1. Roadway Safety & Road Accidents

The first issue to consider is the issue of personal injuries for riders and pedestrians that are caused by the use of electric scooters. Scooters have grown in popularity because they can travel up to 20 MPH. This means that riders can from their home and work with ease, and in much less time than it would take to walk or bike. The main advantage that electric scooters have over other methods of transportation is that they are small and easy to maneuver. Riders can take their scooter in alleyways, and travel on roadways and sidewalks with a high degree of maneuverability. The dangerous side of electric scooters reveals itself due to the speed and small profile of the scooter’s build. Since the scooter does not take up much room, drivers and bicyclists may not see the scooter or the rider in time to prevent an accident. If you’re hit by one of these scooters, then there is a high chance you will get knocked over and seriously harm yourself and those around you. In fact, there have been eight recent deaths tied to the use of electric scooters, and this trend is expected to continue as more electric scooters hit public roads.

2. Inconsistent Laws & Regulations

Image Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/niallmccarthy/2019/02/04/how-dangerous-are-electric-scooters-infographic/#12cc6f27469c
One factor that contributes to scooter accidents is that local laws have not evolved quickly enough to accommodate the rise in popularity for this mode of transportation. Many times riders do not know where they can ride scooters because some cities allow scooters to be used on sidewalks, while others require scooters to stay on roadways. The real problem here is that they are too large, fast, and bulky for sidewalk use – but also too small, flimsy, and slow to be suitable for road use. Riders may choose to operate a scooter on the sidewalk due to concerns about being hit by a car, and using the scooter on a path can lead to accidents with pedestrians. Due to concerns about accidents involving pedestrians, many cities and states are banning the use of electric scooters on sidewalks and roads – in some cases entirely. A Consumer Reports survey recently confirmed that over 3,000 adult scooter users don’t know which traffic laws they should follow or where they’re permitted to ride! Apparently, of those people who have ridden an e-scooter, 51% will ride on the sidewalk, 26% in bike lanes, and 18% on the road.

3. Personal Injuries

Even ignoring the potential for collisions with pedestrians and other vehicles, it’s also important to acknowledge that scooters can be dangerous for their riders. Since riders are standing up, they are more susceptible to injuring their legs and head if they fall off of the scooter while traveling at high speeds. Scooters only have two wheels which makes them prone to tipping over. Their high speed and uneven weight distribution also mean that coming to a sudden stop can be difficult. This poses additional concerns for local policymakers since e-scooters can cause significant harm to people and property since riders are not able to react to situations in a timely manner. City officials can require the use of protective headgear and even high visibility safety vests when operating an electric scooter. Using a helmet can help reduce life-threatening injuries if a rider falls off of a scooter during operation, and high visibility vests can improve the chances that motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians will see the rider as they travel on their scooter. Several of the eight deaths caused by scooters were the result of riders falling off without a helmet, that can lead to brain injuries. These can be prevented by implementing standard laws throughout cities and require riders to wear helmets and other protective equipment while operating an e-scooter.

4. Dangerous Electric Scooter Design

There are other concerns about the use of scooters on public roads that stem from the practical use of the scooters in daily traffic. The first issue is that while scooters can hit speeds up to 20 MPH, this speed is slow compared to how fast a car can travel. This means that electric scooters will block traffic patters while on public roads, and their speed limits their operation on roadways with higher speed limits. At the same time, driving at 20 MPH on a sidewalk near shops and other locations with high foot traffic can lead to confusion and injuries for pedestrians in the area. While electric scooters are convenient for the person operating the vehicle, they can prevent people from enjoying walking at a leisurely pace, can potentially barge through crowds, and will generally be a source of irritation in many cases. City officials will need to think about how e-scooters work in public roadways if they want to integrate this mode of transportation safely into everyday use.

What Can We Do To Make Electric Scooters Safer On Public Roads?

What is the best course of action to take after considering the dangers posed by a scooter for the rider and concerns for pedestrians and motorists? What can be done to ensure the health of citizens while promoting reliable forms of transportation around cities? Many transportation experts agree that it would be unfortunate and short-sighted to ban the use of electric scooters in cities. After all, electric scooters are in many ways a future proof and desirable option for commuting. E-scooters are a fast transport option that is sustainable, and that helps reduce pollution and congestion on public roads. The problem isn’t so much with scooters… it’s more with all the other vehicles and pedestrians. City officials will need to develop regulations that are more strict for operators of scooters, similar to the approach taken with bicyclists. These regulations should not be overreaching, but they can require operators always to wear a helmet and other protective gear while riding on an e-scooter. Even at slower speeds, riders need to pay attention to their surroundings and use protective wear since they pose a threat to pedestrians in the area. Likewise, riders need to be conscientious and responsible when it comes to the way they interact with other users of the roads and sidewalks. Research the laws in your area, and make sure to ride in a way that causes minimal disruption to anyone else Finally, there is also an onus on both city councils and electric scooter manufacturers. Scooters should be designed to reduce accidents, while cities should learn to accommodate alternative modes of transport. Citizens will need to work with local city officials and lawmakers to find a way to ensure the safety of riders and drivers on public roads while continuing to promote electric scooters as an efficient transportation option for years to come!
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Author: Chris Giarratana

Chris is a Digital Media Strategy and AdWords management consultant in Orlando, FL. He develops marketing strategies for small businesses, researches emerging technologies, and enjoys studying transportation issues.

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