This is why we can’t have nice things.
Consumer Reports recently released an investigation that shows that over 1500 injuries in the U.S. alone last year were caused by e-scooters. In the wake of this report, companies like Bird and Lime are going to have to take a step back and rethink how they approach consumer safety moving forward. The companies do encourage riders to use helmets and other safety equipment. But without offering the safety gear, the number of people that follow that advice are little to none.
The investigation done by Consumer Reports showed that a whopping 1,545 injuries between late 2017 and the end of 2018 were results of e-scooter accidents. The report uses information taken from 110 hospitals in 47 cities where Bird or Lime operate. The company also asked if these health practitioners have the ability to track the injuries. Of these injuries, many were big enough to warrant more in-depth care. The injuries reported to hospitals and health centers were more than just a few cuts and scrapes. Many were things like fractures or even fatal injuries.
In most of the cities where Bird and Lime operate users aren’t allowed to ride on the sidewalks in urban areas. This forces riders to go into the road or use bike lanes. The issue with this is that the bike lanes were designed to accommodate riders with helmets and proper equipment. Where Bird and Lime make their business is with riders that hop onto the scooters on a whim. Riders pick up the scooter where the last user left it, unlocking the scooter from an app. Rarely is someone casually walking around with a helmet in preparation of a ride they might take. If Lime or Bird were to start including helmets in their rentals, this would make it harder to operate with the same “leave it anywhere” business plan.
Bird and Lime
When Bird and Lime launched in 2017 they offered bike and scooter rentals around Santa Monica, California and San Francisco. The first batch of Bird scooters saw just ten of them hitting the streets. Within days, 250 more were added to the beachfront areas of the city with instructions littered around the area describing how to rent them. Simply download an app, enter your card information, and rent the scooter using an RFID code on the top. The electric scooter would spring to life and allow you to go on a ride for however long you want. Once you’re done, simply log out of the scooter and leave it on the sidewalk for someone else.
When it comes to the safety concerns surrounding the e-scooter business, it’s still the wild west. Scooter companies are not legally required to provide safety equipment. Instead, many encourage users to ride smart and wear helmets. Neither Bird nor Lime have commented on how, or if, the Consumer Report investigation will impact business in the future.
Julia Sachs is a staff writer at Grit Daily. She covers tech, entrepreneurship and entertainment news and is based in Park City, Utah.