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E-Scooter Safety Is Up For Debate in Chicago

August 06, 2021

The electric scooter pilot programs that Chicago held in 2019 and 2020 evoked varied reactions, with some loving the idea of riding the scooters through the streets while others found them to be dangerous or annoying. Both non-riders and riders were injured in accidents involving e-scooters during the pilot programs.

Chicago E-Scooter Pilot Program

The 2020 shared scooter pilot program happened over four months. It allowed Lime, Bird, and Spin companies to operate 3,333 e-scooters each in the city. The companies had to place half of the scooters on the West and South sides. The license fees that the city collected during the 2020 pilot amounted to $1.2 million. The city also collected $300,000 in taxes. The taxes came from the 9% charge on ride revenue.

This program followed another four-month 2019 pilot that had 10 companies operating 2,500 scooters in total over a 50-square-mile region. 

Each program iteration saw residents take over 640,000 rides. The programs took place to help the city determine whether the shareable e-scooters could be made a permanent transportation fixture.

E-Scooter-Related Injuries

During the 2020 program, e-scooter incidents were linked to 171 emergency department visits. This was a drop from the 192 visits reported during the 2019 pilot. Nevertheless, it is worth mentioning that overall ridership reduced by about 22% in 2020 because of the pandemic. In fact, the normalized rate of ER visits per shareable scooter trip in 2020 was a little higher than the 2019 rate (0.27 compared to 0.23 per 100,000 trips recorded in 2019).

Riders accounted for 93% of the e-scooter-related ER visits. About 5% were pedestrians injured by e-scooters. Twenty-two of the reported injuries were to minors.

Aldermen Raise Safety Concerns

Elected officials have varying opinions on shareable e-scooters. While some support adding the scooters to Chicago’s transportation, others pushed back on the proposal to add them to the city’s infrastructure permanently in a joint committee meeting held in June.

Some officials have raised concerns about the increased complaints that their ward offices have received. Aldermen representing different wards across the states have described the scooters as unsafe and resulting in an excessive number of angry calls to their offices.

Sidewalk Riding

Others have raised concerns about the rules about safe scooter use not being followed by riders. Despite riding on sidewalks being prohibited, there have been complaints of people riding them along sidewalks, cluttering walkways, and hitting pedestrians. 

According to a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), there are more opportunities for riders to suffer injuries when they ride the scooters on sidewalks. Researchers also found scooter riders to be twice as likely as bicyclists to be injured because of pavement cracks, signposts, and lampposts. Nevertheless, riding on the road was found to increase the chances of e-scooter riders suffering more severe injuries.

Concerns have been raised about the benefits of e-scooters to the city in comparison to their safety risks that pose financial risks because of the potential lawsuits after people have been injured in e-scooter incidents. One alderman suggested using measures like geofencing to prevent people from riding the scooters in specific areas. 

The companies that took part in the 2020 pilot program said they are enhancing the technology of their scooters to minimize sidewalk riding. The enhanced technology was, however, not used during the pilot program.

Injuries From E-Scooter Incidents

E-scooter accidents can be caused by cars driven by negligent or distracted drivers. Defects in the brakes and wheels of the scooters have also led to a number of accidents. Riders can also injure pedestrians when they ride on sidewalks, ignore road signs, speed, or operate the scooters in other unsafe ways. Scooters parked haphazardly can also cause trip and fall injuries to other riders and passing pedestrians.

Some of the injuries that victims of e-scooter injuries sustain include:

Riders injured by other people’s negligence or a defective scooter and non-riders injured in scooter collisions, trip, and fall accidents, or other incidents involving e-scooters can seek compensation for their injuries with the help of accident lawyers.

One can collect a variety of damages for his or her scooter accident. If a person’s injuries needed emergency room care, he or she could be compensated for the ER bills and other related costs. Follow-up appointments, physical therapy, and other forms of ongoing medical care can be recovered. A person who missed out on work because of his or her injuries can be compensated for the lost wages and lost earning capacity.

Depending on a person’s circumstances, he or she may collect damages for permanent disfigurement or scarring, emotional distress, and pain and suffering. A person who has severe injuries can be compensated for the reduced quality of life. Accident lawyers help victims determine the type of damages that can be awarded in their cases.

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