A phenomenon that is changing the transportation landscape in urban centers such as Los Angeles is the proliferation of electric scooters (e-scooters). These small two-wheeled vehicles are placed on sidewalks throughout the city by several providers, including Bird, Uber, Lime, and others. Customers can rent a scooter using an app on their smartphones, unlock a scooter, and use it to easily get to where they want to go. While e-scooters can be a good form of alternative transportation, they also carry some risks that you should understand.
Benefits of E-Scooters in Urban Centers
The widespread availability of e-scooters comes with several benefits. Some of the advantages of electric scooters are detailed below.
Because of their small size, e-scooters can be very convenient for riders in urban areas that are prone to traffic congestion. Riders can easily bypass traffic due to the small sizes of their scooters. They can also use alternate routes such as bicycle lanes or paths so long as they do not go more than 15 mph. In Los Angeles, you can ride on an e-scooter on the streets as long as the posted speed limit where you ride is not more than 25 mph. The ability to use alternate transportation paths and to get around traffic congestion can result in reduced traveling times and fewer difficulties on the roads.
With so many e-scooter companies operating in Los Angeles, you can also easily find e-scooters to rent throughout the city. You can simply use your app to unlock a scooter, get on, and start riding. The portability of e-scooters and their availability make them convenient choices for pedestrians and those who simply want a ride to and from their jobs when they work fairly close to home.
Motorcycles and cars are also broadly available, but some people can’t afford to purchase them. The costs of buying and using a car or motorcycle include sticker prices, parking fees, maintenance costs, fuel expenses, and more. E-scooters are much more affordable and can be rented by ride. Since e-scooters are electric, you don’t have to worry about purchasing fuel to ride them. When you rent an e-scooter through an app, you won’t have to worry about parking fees or maintenance costs.
Anyone can ride an e-scooter as long as they are at least 16 years old and have an instruction permit or driver’s license. E-scooters allow people to freely travel without having to worry about maintenance and other costs.
One of the most important benefits of e-scooters in urban environments like Los Angeles is their ability to help reduce overall carbon emissions. Since e-scooters are electric and do not produce exhaust, having more of them on the roads helps by having a lower impact on the environment. One study in Chicago found that the use of e-scooters in that city resulted in a likely reduction in carbon emissions by 116 tons. While electric vehicles also help to reduce carbon emissions, they also contribute to congestion, require more space for parking and roads, and carry high costs compared to gas-fueled vehicles.
E-scooters are also healthier choices for commuting as compared to riding in cars or buses. While walking is the best type of exercise for getting to your destination, e-scooters also offer some health benefits. E-scooters help to improve your balance, posture, and core strength because of the need to balance on the scooter while you ride. Riding on an e-scooter might also help to relieve stress when you ride one to take a break from work.
While e-scooters offer some benefits, there are also multiple disadvantages to the proliferation of scooters in Los Angeles. Some of the cons are described below.
Increased Accident Risks
The increased presence and use of e-scooters have resulted in an increased risk of accidents. Because of their small sizes, e-scooter riders are more difficult for motorists to see. Many people who rent e-scooters via apps also are inexperienced riders who don’t understand how to properly handle them. While app companies recommend riders wear helmets while riding on e-scooters, they don’t provide them. This means that many riders ride e-scooters without helmets, which can result in greater injuries when they are involved in accidents. Some riders also ride on sidewalks even though they are prohibited from doing so, which increases the risk that they will cause accidents with pedestrians. The same pilot study in Chicago that found reduced carbon dioxide risks as previously mentioned also found an increased incidence of accidents among e-scooter riders. During the four-month pilot study, 192 people visited the emergency department because of injuries caused by e-scooter accidents.
While people are supposed to return e-scooters to parking corrals when they finish their rides, many people simply leave them scattered on sidewalks, in parks, and in other places throughout the city. This results in visual pollution and an overall reduction in the quality of life for people who live and work in urban centers.
Waivers of Liability
A major issue faced by people who are injured in accidents on e-scooters is that they must sign waivers of liability at the time they rent their scooters. While a waiver of liability doesn’t automatically mean that the company won’t be liable, it can make it more difficult for you to recover compensation if you are injured while riding on an e-scooter rental from Lime, Uber, Byrd, or others.
Why E-Scooter Liability Can Be Complicated
According to scooter accident attorney Steven M. Sweat, people who are injured in accidents involving e-scooters can run into problems when determining liability and with which insurance company they should file their claims. Determining liability is important for people who suffer serious injuries so that they can have legal recourse to recover compensation. E-scooters are subject to various regulations in different cities and states.
E-scooter laws are continually changing, which can make it more difficult to determine liability for an accident. In an e-scooter accident, any of the following parties might be at fault:
- E-scooter rider
- Automobile driver
- E-scooter manufacturer
- E-scooter rental company
- Municipal government
When an e-scooter rider is injured in an accident, they normally won’t be able to pursue a claim against the e-scooter rental company because of the liability waiver they signed at the time of renting the scooter. However, if the accident occurred because of a defective part, it might be possible to get around the waiver and file a claim against the manufacturer of the defective part under a theory of product liability.
Multiple parties might be at fault in an e-scooter accident. When a collision is caused by a motorist who failed to see the e-scooter rider, the injured rider can file a claim against the motorist to pursue compensation for their injuries. In that case, the claim would function similarly to other types of motor vehicle collision claims.
When an e-scooter rider is at fault for causing an accident in which a pedestrian or bicyclist is injured, it might be fairly simple to prove liability but more difficult to recover compensation. It can be difficult to recover compensation when an e-scooter rider is at fault. Accidents caused by e-scooter riders might not be covered by the e-scooter rider’s insurance company. Car insurance typically only covers accidents caused by vehicles with four wheels, and motorcycle insurance typically only covers accidents caused by bikes with larger engines. When an e-scooter rider owns the scooter, their homeowner’s insurance might cover bicycle accidents and generally won’t cover accidents involving motorized scooters.
When there isn’t any insurance available to cover the costs, the rider might be held liable as long as they have sufficient assets to cover the losses. However, most riders won’t have enough assets to cover losses caused by an e-scooter accident. Many riders are young and haven’t had enough time to build wealth.
Pedestrians might be able to file claims with their uninsured/underinsured motorists coverage (UM/UIM). In this situation, your insurance company might cover your losses when you are injured in an accident with an uninsured e-scooter rider. However, some insurance companies will not cover accidents caused by uninsured e-scooter riders, so the details of your policy will be important.
In some cases, the city might be liable for an e-scooter accident in which the rider is injured. For example, if the rider had an accident because of broken pavement or potholes that were there for a sufficiently long time that the city knew or should have known about the hazard, the city might be responsible for paying damages. However, claims against a local or state governmental entity must be filed quickly because of the much shorter statute of limitations for claims against the government.
E-scooters have changed the transportation landscape in cities across the U.S. While they offer some benefits, there are also some disadvantages when accidents occur. Lawsuits against at-fault drivers are still possible, but it might be difficult to recover compensation when the e-scooter rider is at fault.