I’ve never been shy about my support for electric scooters and e-bikes as an important piece of the alternative transportation puzzle. But as the number of high-profile accidents grows, it’s time that we took a serious look at the importance of rider safety.
The latest incident to make headlines is Rihanna’s electric scooter crash.
The recording artist was seen with a black eye and bruised face this weekend following an accident on an electric scooter.
It is not known what type of electric scooter Rihanna was riding or if she was wearing a helmet..
High-profile cases of celebrities getting injured on electric scooters and e-bikes make for flashy news, meaning these are the cases we tend to hear about. But countless other people are similarly and needlessly injured, and they are not reported.
While many riders are lucky to walk away with scraped knees and bruised egos, one of the leading causes of serious injury is head trauma that could have been prevented by wearing a helmet.
Revel’s shared electric scooter program recently restarted in New York City after three deaths in two months. Again, we hear about high-profile cases such as the death of local NYC news reporter Nina Kapur, who was killed while riding without wearing a helmet as a passenger on a Revel scooter. But these accidents occur far too often, rarely making the news without a famous name to draw attention.
And I’m not singling out any one service or scooter company. Revel, for its part, has introduced stringent new safety regulations including requiring “helmet selfies” that only allow a scooter to be unlocked if the rider is wearing a helmet. Each scooter also includes two helmets in the cargo box, equipped with tearaway hygienic liners.
Shared electric scooter companies like Lime and Bird offer free helmets to riders, though riders must request a helmet in advance.
Such safety measures by companies are helpful, but the only way we can truly make these types of two-wheeled electric vehicles safer is if we as riders make safety a priority.
That means wearing a helmet. That means riding in proper bike lanes instead of weaving around pedestrians. That means familiarizing ourselves with electric scooters or e-bikes before taking them out on a busy road for the first ride.
Of course there are inherent risks with electric bicycles and e-scooters, just like with any form of transportation. An electric scooter is statistically more dangerous than a car, which is statistically more dangerous than a bus, which is statistically more dangerous than a train, etc.
But at a time when an increasing number of riders are turning to e-bikes compared to shared cars, buses, and trains due to COVID-19 concerns, it’s more important than ever that riders take measures to mitigate the risks of micromobility. Wear a helmet. Ride within your limits. Know your local traffic laws. Yield to cars. Sure, maybe you had the right of way. That’s great, and your tombstone will be inscribed with, “Here lies dear reader; he had the right of way.”
But perhaps most importantly of all, take the time to master the vehicle you’re using. While nearly everyone knows how to ride a bike, an electric scooter can be deceiving. It follows the same principles as a bicycle or e-bike, but requires special consideration due to its smaller wheels and inherently lower stability. If you’re new at riding scooters, considering borrowing a friend’s and practicing in a parking lot first. Do donuts, learn how the steering responds, practice keeping your weight further back on the scooter and braking slowly so you don’t fly over the handlebars. And of course keep in mind that your smaller wheels simply can NOT handle the same kinds of obstacles as bicycle wheels. When in doubt, stop and go around.
Practice doesn’t make perfect, but it makes you a lot more experienced and better able to handle the surprises that inevitably arise in the real world.
To reiterate, I strongly support the role of electric scooters and other forms of micromobility. They help reduce CO2 emissions, clear road congestion, and get riders outside enjoying the fresh air. Heck, I don’t even drive a car — I get everywhere I need to go in my city on various forms of electric two-wheelers (or four-wheelers, if you count electric skateboards, too).
But as much as I advocate for the increased used of micromobility vehicles, I’m not seeing the world through rose-colored riding goggles, either. We should all accept that these types of vehicles require more safety considerations and riding attention in order to operate safely. That starts with wearing a helmet and familiarizing ourselves with how to safely and confidently operate such vehicles. But it continues from there. Every ride is a chance to practice those skills and hone our awareness.
Each one of us is responsible for our own safety. If you enjoy riding, then do it safely, properly, and responsibly to make sure you can keep doing it for many years to come. I’ll be happy to join you for a ride!
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