If you’ve been in San Diego recently, you may have noticed a new trend. Electric scooters without assigned “docks” are popping up everywhere. While many are supporting this new eco-friendly mode of transportation, the inherent risk involved has been mostly overlooked.
This blog covers a few of the fundamentals about Bird and Lime scooters, as well as safety concerns, legal troubles, and what to do if you have been hurt while riding a scooter.
The Problem with Dockless Bird or Lime-S Scooters
The concept is pretty simple. Locate a Bird or Lime-S scooter, agree to a few terms, and take off. When you’re done, simply leave your scooter anywhere and lock it up through the app. Easy enough.
But here’s where it gets concerning.
Besides a couple of safety recommendations listed on the app, there is nothing actually stopping anyone from getting a scooter and using it however they want. The app says you must be at least 18 with a driver’s license to ride and tells you to wear a helmet, but even the company’s Instagram page features riders without helmets.
And with just a few swipes to the right you’re up and ready to go, hassle-free, and easily up to 15mph.
Safety requirements for rentable scooters are based on an honor system. No safety inspection, briefing, or an associate to dissuade anyone who should reconsider riding a scooter for a litany of reasons.
Because of this, violations have been numerous—and behavior has been exceedingly dangerous.
It probably won’t shock you to hear:
- Children have been seen riding scooters
- People are riding on sidewalks, zipping past baby strollers and unaware pedestrians
- Helmets are rarely used
- Scooters are ridden at night without lights
- Riders are doubling up on a single scooter
- Scooters are left abandoned on city sidewalks, blocking wheelchair ramps to those who need it most
- People driving vehicles have been unable to see people riding scooters and collisions have occurred
Because they can be left anywhere, electric scooters are now ubiquitous on several of the most populated streets, beaches and sidewalks in Southern California. With pathways lining the beaches that go on for days, Pacific Beach and Ocean Beach are year-round attractions.
Mix an inattentive driver with a swarm of scooters with riders of varying experience and you’ll have a recipe for disaster. Scooters are now showing up in the busy streets of downtown and the Gaslamp Quarter, and the company is growing to other cities int he U.S. and abroad.
From drunk drivers, crowds of pedestrians, to cracks and potholes on the pavement, riders must be able to skillfully dodge obstacles and obey traffic rules all while balancing precariously on a board only inches wide. This is a major factor of concern because those who have not used a scooter may believe they can safely operate one at speed – advertised as 15 miles per hour.
When Fun Goes Wrong
Collisions and accidents happen, and the injuries can be severe.
On January 9th, a woman was rushed to the hospital with a head wound after she scooted through an intersection and drove into an oncoming car. She wasn’t wearing a helmet. The Santa Monica Police Department reported that the scooter was traveling through a neighborhood when its rider approached an intersection without a stop sign. That’s when she entered the street and struck a car. The driver of the car was reported to be traveling unimpaired at a safe speed.
The company that makes the scooters in this instance, Bird Inc., has started to hand out free helmets to users resulting from growing concerns. Riders can request one using the mobile app. Even so, many riders are still spotted as helmetless as the riders in Bird’s advertisements and social media.
After receiving numerous complaints, the city of Santa Monica has issued guidelines for using electric scooters. The statement references California vehicle code which establishes rules for safety laws regarding electronic scooters.
Sections 21223 and 21235 of the CA vehicle code state:
- You can only ride if you have a valid driver’s license or instruction permit.
- Wearing a helmet is required for all ages.
- You must ride by yourself, and not with any passengers.
- You must ride on the road, never on the sidewalk.
- You may not park on the sidewalk in the way of pedestrian traffic.
- You must not ride at night unless the motorized scooter is equipped with proper lighting equipment, including a front light source which is visible from the front and sides, and reflectors
Unfortunately, people riding these scooters are not particularly visible and it is very easy to be hit and seriously injured by cars, trucks, trolleys and other scooter riders.
Did You Know?
- On average, the NHTSA reported that those who ride motorbikes, mopeds or scooters are 35 times more at risk of fatal injury than those in cars
- The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has established that mopeds and scooters are responsible for over 20% of traumatic brain injuries
- In 2014, the NHTSA reported 92,000 injuries and 4,295 deaths from motorcycle, moped and scooter accidents across the U.S.
What You Can Do to Stay Safe
If you made it this far down the page and intend to ride the scooter, please consider a few safety measures to protect you.
- Wear a helmet. Traumatic brain injuries can alter your life and can happen so easily.
- Follow traffic rules, especially stopping at stop signs.
- Make yourself visible at all times. Wear bright clothing whenever possible.
- Visors and sunglasses can protect your eyes from oncoming insects and blinding sunlight.
- Try to signal so people around you know where you’re going.
- Announce or make your presence known if you intend to pass someone from behind.
- Remember to follow all traffic rules.
About Bird Scooters in 45 Seconds
The sleek, black scooters emblazoned with the word “BIRD” can be found anywhere from LA to San Diego. The company’s founder, Travis VanderZander, started his business in Santa Monica after working for Uber as the VP of Global Driver Growth.
Bird Rides Inc. took flight in September 2017. Ever since, the motorized scooters have been spotted around the streets of Southern California alongside beach enthusiasts, bicyclists and skateboarders.
Bird works similarly to a carshare program where vehicles are spread out throughout an area, available to reserve and rent through a smartphone app. Once users download the Bird app, they are instructed to find a Bird near them. Once located, users must snap a picture of the scooter’s barcode to reserve and unlock it. When the ride is finished, scooters can be parked anywhere, then locked using the app. The electric charge allows riders to go up to 15 mph and travel up to 15 miles. Rides cost $1 plus 15 cents for each minute of use.
Bird Faces Legal Trouble
Bird is now dealing with an eight-count misdemeanor criminal complaint filed by the Santa Monica City Attorney’s Office. The complaint alleges that Bird has repeatedly violated local laws by its lack of a proper business license, vendor permits and failing to pay administrative fines.
According to officials, Bird Rides Inc. has a business license to operate a brick-and-mortar administrative office, but not to operate scooters in an ad hoc manner on public grounds. Even more, Bird employees have swarmed the public city sidewalks with the motorized scooters, obstructing pedestrian access and blocking wheelchair ramps. Even if Bird were to obtain the proper license, the issue about the scooters left on sidewalks remains.
An investigation revealed that Bird has refused to cooperate with the city, even after several warnings and citations. Bird was issued a summons to appear in court to answer the charges on February 1, 2018. As of this writing, the date has now been pushed to February 26, 2018, to allow parties time to negotiate.
The city of Santa Monica has been placed in an awkward situation by Bird Rides, Inc. While the city is eager for innovators to come up with new means of eco-friendly sustainable living, it cannot stand for businesses which refuse to operate within the bounds of the law.
Will San Diego be following suit?
About LIME-S Scooters
Other scooters to recently hit the pavement are Lime-S scooters, owned by LimeBike. Lime-S scooters are easily recognized by their lime green color and are a common as Bird scooters.
Lime scooters work just like Bird scooters, available to rent via an app. Users must locate and rent a scooter and when the ride is finished, simply lock up anywhere.
These electric scooters can go up to 14.8 miles with a maximum range of 37 miles. Lime-S scooters cost $1 to unlock and $.10 for every ten minutes of riding.
Like Bird Inc. scooters, Lime-S scooters offer directions regarding how to ride safely. But the problem of enforcing rules still remains, leaving riders and nearby passers-by at great risk for sudden accidents from inexperienced riders.
Were You Hurt While Riding a Bird or Lime Scooter?
As soon as these scooters appeared, the team at Harlan Law witnessed first hand how inexperienced riders (and a few overconfident ones) were going to crash or have a collision. Many of the most populated areas where the scooters operate have inattentive drivers due to the congestion the beach and downtown areas naturally create.
We have litigated and represented individuals who have suffered serious injuries from accidents that occur at low speed. Most concerning is the potential for head injuries which can result in extremely high medical bills, a long recovery when possible, and many prognoses for recovery are unknown.
Harlan Law can help.
Our firm has represented individuals and families in serious injury and negligence matters and intends to assist victims of scooter-related accidents. Jordon Harlan had this to add: “I like the scooters and they are a neat idea and eco-friendly part is great too. Unfortunately, the scooters do not come with safety equipment, a safety briefing, or a representative from the company to clearly explain the potential dangers, and this is going to lead to people getting hurt. Our firm intends to help those people while they recover from their injuries ensuring they are compensated to the maximum extent under the law.”
Injury cases often involve negligence on the part of companies, businesses or individuals, such as the driver of a car not following traffic laws. If you have been involved in a wreck that was not your fault, you may be entitled to compensation.
A lawsuit cannot erase the damage done, but a settlement can help pay for:
- Medical bills and hospital stays
- Ambulance rides and paramedic bills
- Medication and treatment
- Rise in insurance costs
- Loss of income or the ability to work
- Repairs or property damage
Contact Harlan Law at 619-870-0802 for a no-cost, no-obligation consultation. Speaking with a lawyer can provide you with accurate answers to your question due to the unique nature that no two incidents can be identical. Call us today.