Everyone comes to New York; why not Bird scooters, too?
But City Council is discussing legislation that would legalize e-scooters on NYC streets as it awaits a bill from Albany that would empower N.Y. localities to adopt such legislation. Evidently, Bird scooters have already been in Brooklyn, though illegally, since last summer and the company even invited journalists to take test rides last fall.
So, yes, the smart money says we’ll see electric scooter rentals and their riders on the streets of NYC sometime soon. And we’ll see such personal injuries as broken bones, head and traumatic brain injury (TBI), spinal cord injury and road rash (i.e., scrapes, cuts, and bruises), and perhaps Bird scooter deaths soon after.
What Is a Bird Scooter?
Bird electric scooters are two-wheeled vehicles that users can rent through a smartphone app. Riders stand on a narrow metal blade with handlebars and cruise at speeds of up to 15 mph. Bird and similar companies park their scooters by the thousands at multiple locations in urban centers where they are allowed to, which makes them easily obtained in city centers.
Bird typically charges $1 per ride plus 15 cents per minute used for scooters, or $10 for the first hour. Host cities charge franchise fees and set a maximum number of scooters companies may put out in defined areas.
Because e-scooters do not rely on docks for energy, users can park them anywhere within a defined service area when they are done with them. Contractors us a GPS app to locate and retrieve scooters each night, then recharge their batteries and redeploy them for use the following day.
Bird is the largest of several companies that have put tens of thousands of their electric scooters on the streets in urban areas throughout America over the last couple of years. Bird and Lime, a similar company, have been lobbying New York officials since last summer to allow e-scooters and electric bikes on city streets, according to Business Insider. Lime is already operating a pilot program with e-bikes in parts of the city, including Far Rockaway, the Bronx and Staten Island, Inc. notes.
Bird, Lime and other electric scooter companies, such as Jump, Muving, Ofo, Relay and Spin, have been successful to varying degrees with e-scooter rentals in mid-size to large cities across the country, including San Diego and Santa Monica, Calif.; Salt Lake City, Utah; Dallas, Texas; Nashville, Tenn.; Atlanta, Ga.; Raleigh, N.C.; Baltimore, Md.; and Washington, D.C.
Will NYC See Bird Scooter Injuries and Deaths?
Unfortunately, where Bird scooters go, Bird scooter crashes and injuries soon follow.
Last September, the Washington Post said a 24-year-old Dallas, Texas, man who crashed an e-scooter he rented was probably the first e-scooter death in the country. When a 20-year-old man riding an electric scooter that collided with an SUV died a couple of weeks later, it was considered the first fatal e-scooter accident in the U.S. capital.
Riders and pedestrians are being injured in e-scooter accidents across the country caused by inattentive motorists, reckless scooter use and defective scooters. Safety advocates have long talked about watching out for motorcyclists and bicycles, which are smaller than cars and harder to see in traffic; e-scooters have an even slimmer profile. While Bird’s and other companies’ apps instruct riders to wear helmets, it is virtually impossible to enforce the rule.
Consumer Reports said in February it had identified more than 1,500 people across the country injured in e-scooter-related crashes since late 2017. The magazine said it contacted 110 hospitals and five law enforcement agencies in 47 cities where Bird or Lime operates. Of 60 that responded, 23 reported treating 1,545 patients for scooter-involved injuries over the prior year, while 37, a majority of respondents, said either they don’t track scooter injuries, lack the capability to track them, or had no reports on file.
Consumer Reports said it had confirmed at least four fatalities, including a 21-year-old man (later identified as an exchange student from Ireland) who died in a collision while riding a Lime scooter in Austin, Texas, February 1. The fourth e-scooter fatality appears to have occurred last December in a collision in Chula Vista, Calif., in which the “driver told police the man riding the electric scooter had ‘come out of nowhere.’”
How Frequently Are People Being Injured in Bird Scooter Accidents?
Doctors in trauma centers across the country told Consumer Reports they’ve been treating serious injuries related to Bird and other e-scooter crashes since the ride-share fleets started showing up on city streets in the summer of 2017. “For example, the emergency chief at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta estimated the emergency department has treated 360 people with injuries. Vanderbilt Hospital in Nashville has seen 250 people with injuries, according to the Medical Director of the Trauma ICU.
“‘We’ve had multiple concussions, nasal fractures, bilateral forearm fractures, and some people have required surgery,’ says Beth Rupp, medical director at the Indiana University Health Center, in Bloomington, Ind., where ride-share e-scooters were introduced in September.”
When Consumer Reports contacted Bird and Lime, neither company would provide injury statistics. But records the city of Portland, Ore., had previously obtained indicated that by July 2018 — as they mounted major expansions across the nation — Bird and Lime had recorded 470 injuries combined across the U.S.
It defies reason to say there will not be Bird and Lime scooter accidents and injuries in New York City if they are allowed here.