Scooters have emerged as an affordable and popular way to travel in the city, but there are unforeseen consequences of this trend.
One company, Lime, is feeling the squeeze after a woman crashed one of their rental stand-up scooters in Austin in early August, striking a curb and slamming head-first into the pavement, the Austin American-Statesman reports. The rider was not wearing a helmet, despite Lime’s policy that all riders must wear them.
Lime operates dockless electric scooters and pedal-assist bikes in more than 60 U.S. cities and several cities in Europe. To ride them, a customer can use the Lime app to find and unlock a scooter nearby, then park the scooter at the end of the ride and use the app to lock it. The goal of scooter-sharing companies like Lime and Bird, which have been called the “Uber of scooters,” is to relieve congestion and provide an alternative to people traveling a few miles in a city. Lime scooters can reach speeds of nearly 15 miles per hour.
After the crash on Sunday, August 4, on South Congress Avenue in Austin, the scooter rider, described as a woman in her 50s, was transported to the hospital with “critical, life-threatening injuries.”
“Safety is our number one priority, and Lime urges riders to always put the safety of others and themselves before anything else when operating any of our vehicles. We instruct riders to practice safe riding using helmets both through notices on the app and on the actual scooter,” said Lime communications manager Mary Caroline Pruitt in an emailed statement a few days after the accident. “In order to unlock a Lime scooter for the first time, all riders must go through an in-app tutorial that includes helmet safety. We are constantly developing and implementing tools in the app to further promote safe riding and scooter use.”
Austin is now home to 2,000 rental bikes and scooters, with at least four companies in the area, reports the Austin American-Statesman. With the increase in dockless shared bikes and scooters comes an increase in safety concerns—and not just for the riders.
“There are moms with a stroller and a dog on a leash that almost get clipped all the time. … It’s just a lot of traffic on the sidewalk with a lot of people walking,” one downtown Austin resident told the Statesman. “And let’s face it – half the people are on their phones, and everyone’s not always paying attention. They walk out of a shop, and all the sudden someone on a scooter comes flying by.”
The rental agreements for most bike and scooter shares clarify that riders take full responsibility for what happens on the scooter. The company usually is not liable.
The Lime app’s terms of service include an arbitration agreement, in which a rider forfeits his rights to go to court and have a dispute heard by a judge or jury, the Dallas News reports. Users must also agree that they are a “competent operator” and that they “assume all responsibilities and risks for any injuries and/or medical conditions” that result from crashing while on a scooter.
As shared bikes and scooters become more common in cities across Texas, accidents will unfortunately also become more common. Those involved in an accident, on either side, may benefit from the advice of the experienced attorneys at Evans Law Firm. Contact them today for a free consultation.