Saturday, May 11, 2019

Danger for e-scooter riders and cyclists

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From the latest issue of the Berkeley Wellness Letter:

Electric Scooters: Watch Out!
by Jeanine Barone

In some U.S. cities, people riding rental electric scooters (e-scooters) are increasingly competing with cyclists for space on streets and with people on sidewalks. Riders of the rechargeable two-wheeled scooters often weave around (and sometimes into) pedestrians, and dodge vehicles on traffic-choked streets—and when they finish their rides, leave the dockless scooters just about anywhere.

Such e-scooters have been around for years, but the app-based rental business model has made them an increasing popular. Shared e-scooters by Bird, Lime, Skip, Scoot, Spin, Jump (from Uber), Lyft, and other companies can be a convenient, inexpensive, non-polluting mode of transportation. 

But they can also be dangerous, with even a few reported deaths of riders. Because of the newness of the scooter-sharing programs, official data on injuries are limited.

According to Dr. Troy Madsen, an emergency medicine specialist at the University of Utah Hospital in Salt Lake City (where an e-scooter program began in 2017), scooter-related injuries reported in that hospital’s emergency department nearly tripled between 2017 and 2018. Almost half of the injuries were fractures or dislocations involving shoulders, elbows, wrists, and ankles. Also common were lacerations, sprains, and head injuries.

A study in JAMA Network Open in January looked at data on scooter-related injuries seen in emergency rooms between September 2017 and August 2018 at two UCLA hospitals, not far from Santa Monica, where shared scooters were first available in the U.S. It found that 249 people were treated for scooter-related trauma, mostly fractures and head injuries. 

More than 10 percent were younger than 18 (though rental agreements forbid such underage use), only about 4 percent had been wearing a helmet, and 5 percent had elevated blood alcohol levels or appeared to be intoxicated.

Because of these risks, and because some companies have brought their e-scooters into areas without asking for permission from the local officials, it’s no wonder that some cities (such as West Hollywood, Nashville, Seattle, and Tucson) have banned or restricted e-scooter programs...


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