With summer around the corner, the already congested streets of Chicago will have a new addition, hundreds and possibly thousands of people riding electric scooters. Electric scooters are eco-friendly, cheap and will be a quick way to get around the city, however they also bring the potential for a plethora of problems and severe injury.
On May 1, 2019 the Chicago Department of Transportation and the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection made a joint announcement that applications are open for vendors to participate in the city’s pilot program. According to the Chicago Tribune, the city is using a pilot program starting June 15, 2019 through October 15, 2019 and the city will evaluate after that whether to expand the program. The pilot zone will be bound by Halsted Street and the Chicago River on the east, Irving Park on the north, the city boundary and Harlem Avenue on the west and the Chicago River on the south. Some likely candidates to participate are Lime and Bird, both dock-less electric scooter sharing companies.
These dock-less scooters are extremely convenient as they can be activated via a mobile phone and do not need to be returned to a docking station. The city is requiring a number of rules during this pilot program, like not allowing riders to park their scooters in a way that clutters the sidewalk. To achieve that goal, scooters cannot be ridden on sidewalks between the hours of 10pm and 5am. The city is also limiting the speeds of the scooters to 15mph and are allowing a maximum of 2,500 scooters in the designated area as shown above.
Riding the scooters will be a great way to explore the city, however a number of issues have already emerged in other cities and will likely arise in Chicago as well. In Austin, Texas, a 3 month study was performed in late 2018 by the Austin Public Health where they found 190 scooter riders were injured during that time. One-third of the injured riders were on a scooter for the first time and even scarier, nearly half of the 190 injured scooter riders involved a head injury. The research also showed that 15% of the injured riders showed signs of traumatic brain injury and of those injured, less than 1% were wearing a helmet.
By the time the pilot program begins in Chicago, the city will be in full fledge summer mode and most students will be on summer break, making the already congested streets even more hectic. Another major problem will be that many riders will not feel the need to wear a helmet which can lead to traumatic brain injuries like mentioned in the Austin Public Health study. With ride sharing services like Uber and Lyft, taxis, regular drivers, bicyclists, pedestrians and now thousands of electric scooters on the road, all those on the streets and sidewalks of Chicago will have to take extra precautions.
Some safety tips when riding an electric scooter: (1) Always wear a helmet; (2) Always ride solo; (3) Wear extra padding like gloves, knee pads or elbow pads. It is also extremely important to follow the traffic signals while riding an electric scooter. Drivers will need to take extra precautions as well and make sure to be on the look out for scooter riders especially when making turns. Pedestrians should also be on alert when crossing the streets and be looking out for parked scooters on the sidewalk as they could create a tripping hazard.
Depending on how the pilot program pans out, electric scooters could be here to stay in Chicago. If you or a loved one has been injured in an electric scooter accident, contact the trial attorneys at Rapoport Weisberg & Sims for a free consultation.