Whose Responsibility Is E-Scooter Safety?

A 2019 paper called “Injuries Associated With Standing Electric Scooter Use” by Tarak K. Trivedi et al. describes a study on e-scooter safety.  Tarak and his team looked into emergency department visits at two locations associated with a medical center in Southern California.  Of the 249 patients whose injuries were scooter-related, the most common being head injuries (40.2%), fractures (31.7%) and soft-tissue injuries (27.7%). 

According to Bloomberg, Trivedi isn’t ready to say that these cases constitute a true public health emergency, but he does emphasize that people need to understand that there is a high probability of injuring yourself when riding an electronic scooter. 

This raises a question: who is responsible for ensuring electronic scooter safety?

City officials have control over the infrastructure and set laws that govern micro-mobility (including electronic scooters). It may therefore make sense to invest in developing bike lane infrastructure that can also be used by e-scooter riders and legislate that riders wear helmets to prevent head injuries.

Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) providers have control over who gets to use their services. Amongst other measures, MaaS providers could look to enhance age verification processes which could help prevent minors from renting e-scooters.

Whilst the cities and providers have a part to play, riders themselves obviously need to take some level of personal responsibility for their safety.

As micro mobility and MaaS becomes commonplace in our cities, this is an issue that will have to be resolved.  The benefits of individual mobility are beyond question, but the delivery of these services must be within a framework that work for all. 

We only need to look at the issues that Uber and Lyft are going through with the classification of employee vs. contractor to see that micro-mobility providers might want to put the onus on themselves to ensure that the service they deliver is efficient and safe for all.

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