Since their launch a few weeks ago, electric scooters have become a part of Chicago’s transit landscape.
The dockless rental scooters the city is testing in a four-month pilot program are convenient, easy to access and environmentally friendly. They could help reduce the number of cars on our streets and boost support for protected bike lanes, which scooters also use.
Chicagoans have taken tens of thousands of scooter rides so far, building on a national trend. Americans in dozens of cities took 38.5 million rides on shared scooters in 2018, according to the National Association of City Transportation Officials.
But there’s a big concern with this experiment: safety.
Sporadic reports of injuries from crashes have cropped up at hospitals in and around the pilot zone, Streetsblog Chicago found. In the pilot’s first two weeks, six hospitals logged 21 injuries, some requiring surgery, Streetsblog reported.
Many of the injuries likely are related to the scooters’ basic design, Streetsblog editor John Greenfield told WTTW.
“When you’re standing on a scooter, you have a very high center of gravity compared to a bicycle,” Greenfield said. “Most scooters have small wheels that don’t handle potholes very well, and you’re also not very visible to drivers from the side.”
Hundreds of injuries have been reported elsewhere, and a 2018 study found that a third of scooter riders in Austin, Texas, were injured on their first trip. Another 30% were hurt during their first nine rides.
We’ve also seen far too many riders without helmets, which the city ought to consider making mandatory. A recent study of injured riders who came to UCLA Medical Center emergency rooms found that only 4% of riders were documented as wearing helmets. Head injuries, at 40%, were the most common type of injury in that study.
One last note: Riders, mind your manners and park your scooter properly after a ride. That means upright and parallel to the sidewalk and street, or in a bike rack.
And obey traffic rules, for everyone’s safety. A scooter rider going the wrong way down the street put a 32-year-old bicyclist in the hospital.
Chicago’s pilot program for scooters runs until Oct. 15.
Riders, we’re counting on you to make this a success.
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