Oh, Seattle, are you sure you’re ready to release electric scooters to the masses?
A week after Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said she wants to try a scooter-share pilot program in the city, an ominous warning comes from San Diego, and a GeekWire reader who calls the two-wheeled, dockless transportation option “a nightmare” for that city.
“Riders dump them wherever they want when they are finished riding, usually [laying] them down on the sidewalks, with no regard for the disabled or elderly pedestrians,” the email in my inbox proclaimed. “And unlike what the scooter companies suggest, the majority of the riders are tourists, underage children, and drunk college kids. Very few riders use the scooters as an alternative to their car; they use them as an alternative to WALKING.”
I watch plenty of silly fail videos on my phone while killing time with my 12-year-old (OK, I do it alone, too), but the reader from San Diego really got my attention with a link to a YouTube compilation video that offers a chilling look at just how reckless people can be on scooters. And it was shot overlooking the sunny, dry, flat boardwalk of Mission Beach. Try picturing hilly, congested, rain-slicked Seattle in its place.
I had a chance to step on a scooter for a brief scoot at City Hall last week, along with a couple City Councilmembers, as scooter-share hopefuls Lime and Bird encouraged the public to let the City know that they want another tool in the last-mile transportation toolbelt.
— Kurt Schlosser (@kslosh) May 9, 2019
Going 50 feet and turning back in a carless and people-free plaza hardly qualified as a treacherous commute. But navigating a scooter through Seattle rush hour traffic is a different and more dangerous scenario.
The Council and Durkan are all well aware of the risks that scooters have posed in other cities. The Centers for Disease Control, at the urging of health and transportation departments in Austin, Texas, released a study this month on e-scooter injuries and the spike of emergency room visits across the country for fractures, dislocations and head trauma.
Head injuries topped the list of accident-related trauma at 45 percent, the CDC reported, adding that many could have been prevented with the use of helmets. A 53-year-old man who was not wearing a helmet when he hit a tree became the second e-scooter fatality in San Diego County when he died in March.
“Learning how to properly ride a scooter and wearing a helmet while doing so might be a key step to preventing injuries, so let’s see how to do that right here in Seattle,” Durkan wrote in her GeekWire guest post.
In addition to the injury concern, accessibility is a big issue for Seattle officials considering a pilot program. Bike sharing has already illustrated that there aren’t adequate spaces to park shareable bicycles from Lime and Uber’s Jump, and on sidewalks they become an impediment to people who are blind or have mobility impairments. Scooters are only predicted to add to that.
The Safe Walkways SD Facebook group is loaded with images and articles related to San Diego’s scooter situation.
Disability Rights California filed a class action lawsuit in January against the City of San Diego and private e-scooter companies due to their inability to maintain sidewalk accessibility.
The San Diego City Council approved safety regulations proposed by Mayor Kevin Faulconer, such as speed limits and no-ride zones, but our reader called them “ridiculous.”
“I truly hope things turn out better for you in Seattle than us,” the reader wrote. “If not, there will unfortunately be a lot of scooter injuries and accidents to write about in the coming months/years.”