Brown Signs Scooter Bill and Other Scooter News

Also: Lime appeals San Francisco pilot program decision, Bird reaches milestone--and what about those e-scooter dangers?

Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog
Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog
Note: GJEL Accident Attorneys regularly sponsors coverage on Streetsblog San Francisco and Streetsblog California. Unless noted in the story, GJEL Accident Attorneys is not consulted for the content or editorial direction of the sponsored content.

Yesterday Governor Brown signed A.B. 2989, the bill bringing regulation of e-scooters a little closer to that of bicycles. When the new law goes into effect in January, adults can no longer be cited for not wearing helmets when riding them. Not every city has gone all-out to chase down riders without helmets, but enforcement has been an issue, particularly in Santa Monica. Police there have been ticketing riders for not having helmets, and the citation can cost them anywhere between $100 and $200. No longer, at least for adults.

Youth under eighteen are still required to wear a helmet, though, the same as with riding bikes.

The new law also keeps the speed limit for scooters at fifteen mph, and leaves in place existing prohibitions such as operating e-scooters without a driver’s license and riding them on sidewalks.

Meanwhile, cities are still spending inordinate amounts of time working out how to regulate the devices, and there is little consistency in their approaches. San Francisco decided that it would offer permits to only two companies, Scoot and Skip, for its one-year pilot program. That left out Lime, Bird, and Spin, companies that had deployed e-scooters in the city before there were any regulations, but pulled them out when the city temporarily banned all e-scooter rentals.

Lime has appealed San Francisco’s decision, charging that the “unclear and inconsistent” decision-making process resulted in “arbitrary and inexplicable results.”

Curbed SF has more on that.

At the same time, Bird scooters announced today that in the year since that company launched, people have taken ten million rides on their e-scooters. Two million riders, in over 100 cities, have traveled 14.3 million miles on Bird scooters. Obviously scooters have been extremely popular where they are available, despite all the Twitter hoo-ha about them being dumped in lakes or hanging from trees.

It also highlights an outlandish aspect of the anecdata about how “dangerous” e-scooters are that’s been showing up in the media over the last few weeks.

Those articles have quoted emergency room doctors describing injuries from e-scooters as “pouring in” to their facilities, but haven’t given a sense of how many injuries there might be per scooter rider, nor what’s causing those injuries. Staff in the office of Assemblymember Heath Flora (R-Ripon), the author of A.B. 2989, did their own calculations based on numbers reported in a recent San Francisco Chronicle story about e-scooter dangers. They calculated the percentage of injuries (twelve) per scooter ride (178,233) as mentioned in that article, getting an injury rate of .00007 percent. Of course that’s with very limited data. More detailed data will undoubtedly be available in the future as more e-scooter rides are taken.

But one can already make a few observations at this early stage. For example, extrapolating from Bird’s estimate of an average e-scooter trip length at 1.43 miles would give an injury rate per e-scooter mile driven of .00005 percent.

That’s quite a bit lower than the DEATH rate–not even the injury rate—from car crashes. Using just the numbers from the Chronicle article, the scooter injury rate per 100 million miles would be .0196, while the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety calculates the death rate per 100 million miles driven by car at 0.99 in California.

Another useful observation could come from studying the number of complaints received, as mentioned in the article, vs. the number of injuries it reports. That is, 1400 complaints came from 600 people. Compared to twelve reported injuries.

Any travel option holds its dangers, but it’s best to stay focused on the facts, not fears. What is at the root of the “dangers” of e-scooters: the scooters themselves? The people using them? Or is it unsafe street design, lack of street maintenance–inattentive car drivers, perhaps?

  • homerbound

    i do love scooters, but there have been a few deaths before we hit 100 million rides. Whether the scooters were at fault is hard to say. How bad it will be while we get to 10 billion rides is harder yet. However, if those 10 billion rides result in less than 100 deaths (the car rate) or close to it, they’ll help finance a metric ton of new bike lines, removed uber trips, increased driver awareness of non car vehicles etc etc. Bring it on!

  • Darren

    The fight between pedestrians and scooter riders is like two paupers fighting over the crumbs while a tycoon (car drivers) eats basically the whole pie. I support keeping scooters and scooter users off of pedestrian facilities, but believe it is better to do so through education and enforcement, rather than an outright ban. In concert with such enforcement, also convert car parking spaces to scooter parking areas, and add bike lanes where they don’t currently exist.

  • Bernard Finucane

    The key claim here is “are going to”, but how do you know that? It seems unlikely when you consider bikes and scooters are fairly slow and very lightweight. In fact a cyclist is more likely to injure himself than a pedestrian in a collision. On the other hand we both do know for a fact that car drivers kill tens of thousands of Americans every year.

  • Bernard Finucane

    I doubt seriously that you are a pedestrian. Making unproven claims about who you are and what you do aren’t to be taken seriously when the conversation is more or less anonymous, as it is here. Using it as a stick to attack others is a cheap propaganda trick.
    I repeat my recommendation that you visit places where there is a lot of bike traffic. Generally, cycles and pedestrians get along pretty well. For example in Germany bikes are required to have a bell, and shared bike / pedestrian areas are clearly marked by priority. In places where pedestrians have priority cyclists usually slow to nearly a stop if needed, and in places where bikes have priority the pedestrians usually step aside pretty quickly when the hear a bell. It works.

  • Bernard Finucane

    LOL, I doubt the author of that post sees himself as a pedestrian. Anyway I said “meme”, I insulted nobody. A meme is not a person.

  • Cynara2

    The truncated cones for the blind say it is a sidewalk.

  • Cynara2

    What meme? Scooters and bikes and electric skateboards are all serious threats to pedestrians. These e scooters are going to do some serious harm. You people need to stop being so selfish and dishonest. That is a sidewalk and motorized vehicles with tires do not belong on it. There is legal and then there is moral.

  • Cynara2

    He is wrong. There is no nuance. That is a sidewalk. The truncated cones for the blind are telling the vision impaired they are entering or leaving a sidewalk.

  • Cynara2

    A promenade, by definition, is for walking. Those are truncated cones he is blocking. They are telling the blind they are going from the sidewalk to the street. That is a sidewalk.

  • Bernard Finucane

    Get a grip.

  • Bernard Finucane

    This meme is so stupid. Cars re are the threat to pedestrians.

  • Fran Taylor

    And where in the nonexistent caption is that nuance explained to the reader? Of all the possible photos of scooters, Streetsblog chose to run one showing motorized machines mixing with pedestrians. That’s a conscious decision that conveys a message that pedestrians have no right to protected space, whatever the particulars of this specific location.

  • Stuart

    it sure looks like a sidewalk

    The Embarcadero Promenade in SF looks like a sidewalk too, but it’s not; it’s a mixed-use promenade.

    Maybe trust the person who took the picture and knows where and what the space is over what you concluded from one picture?

  • Cynara2

    It is a sidewalk. You are wrong, careless about pedestrians as usual. Bikes are legal on sidewalks, scooters are not. But, we know. It’s hopeless. There is no safe place for pedestrians anymore. Cyclists do endorse insulting and dangerous behaviour toward us.

  • Melanie Curry

    Like I said, it’s not a sidewalk, and it’s not a pedestrian-only space. That’s a throughway that bicycles are allowed on, which means that scooters are as well. BTW I don’t advocate scooters or bikes riding on sidewalks–but I do understand why they might feel the need to.

  • Fran Taylor

    I stand corrected on the number, but it sure looks like a sidewalk or other pedestrian right of way to me. When scooters invaded San Francisco earlier this year, they definitely presented a hazard to people walking, especially us seniors, along with people with disabilities and small children. Streetsblog running a photo showing them in ped space smacks of endorsement for that behavior.

  • Cynara2

    Oh, you’re right. There ARE four. And all of them are on the sidewalk.

  • Cynara2

    Three.

  • Melanie Curry

    Drop dead? Really? Those pedestrians look pretty healthy to me. P.S. There are four scooters in this photo, and it’s not a sidewalk. Bikes are allowed to ride here.

  • Fran Taylor

    Two scooters on the sidewalk in this photo. Streetsblog to pedestrians: drop dead.

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