Electric scooters are injuring and killing riders at alarming rates, new studies reveal.
Despite growing safety data on e-scooters — powered two-wheelers that are zipping along city streets nationwide — the industry’s two biggest scooter-rental players, Lime Bike and Bird, spent $230,000 last year trying to talk city pols into making them street-legal in New York.
Three New Yorkers died riding privately-owned e-scooters in 2018, all in the Bronx, the Department of Transportation reported. And fatalities and injuries are on the rise in cities where e-scooters — which have top speeds of 20 mph — have been legalized and dockless, app-connected rental systems are in place.
Rented e-scooters have caused four fatalities since they first appeared on the streets of Santa Monica, Calif., in September 2017. That’s about one death for every 12.5 million miles ridden — more than six times deadlier than driving.
Austin, Texas, saw two serious e-scooter injuries a day last fall, local public health officials told The Post – landing five to six riders a month in the intensive care unit of just one of its local hospitals, some with life-altering brain injuries.
And two Los Angeles-area ERs logged 249 e-scooter injuries over 12 months in 2017 and 2018, according to a study published Friday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Riders, not pedestrians, bore the brunt 90 percent of the time, the researchers found. Most of their injuries were severe: 32 percent had broken bones and 40 percent suffered head trauma.
“Imagine a sprinter running full speed into a brick wall,” said George Chidi of Atlanta, whose December wipeout on a Bird scooter caused a broken wrist that required surgery and a steel plate.
“That’s the type of injury we’re talking about.”
The battery-operated devices, which unlock with an app and cost a few dollars to ride, are touted as a green alternative to autos and a savior for troubled transit systems. Bird issued a report in December offering its scooters as a solution to an L train shutdown.
Uber is also looking to break into the e-scooter business, and used a slice of its $4.9 million lobbying budget on the issue.
At a hearing Wednesday, some City Council members brushed off safety concerns.
“The only way we’re going to advance our transportation options and alternatives is by legalizing the e-bikes and e-scooters,” said Rafael Espinal (D-Brooklyn).
“Safety is our number one priority,” said Lime spokesman Gil Kazimirov, pointing to its $3 million campaign to educate scooter riders and hand out helmets.
A showcase in Manhattan Friday displayed Lime’s latest e-scooter model, with large wheels and a wide base designed for stability on urban streets like New York’s.
Chidi, a public policy analyst, warns that adding the machines to New York’s streetscape will tempt novice riders into taking dangerous risks.
“These are motorized skateboards with an added bar, that’s all they are,” Chidi said.
“A lot of people are going to try riding these things without having the physical ability to prevent injury. I am not the only one who will overestimate my skills.”
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