Download the app, scan the bar code, and BOOM you are riding an electric scooter around the streets of Los Angeles for less than the price of a cup of coffee! The hype behind electric scooters has grown exponentially and so has their usage. Lime and Bird electric scooters have been flooding the streets of metropolitan areas including Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco. Now one must wonder, what are these electric scooters? And how are they allowed to be parked anywhere? This article contains all the details you need, including what to do when you’re involved in an accident with a scooter or suffer an injury from riding one.
WHAT ARE ELECTRIC SCOOTERS?
Bird is an electric scooter service that first launched on September 1, 2018 in Santa Monica. Birds can be parked and picked up almost anywhere in the city. Once you download the app and input your personal information, you will have access to thousands of Birds around the city. Birds have a range of about 15 miles per hour and each ride costs $1 initially, plus $0.39 cents per minute. Upon reaching your destination, you park the scooter on the sidewalk and lock it for the next rider using the app.
Each scooter has a GPS unit and is connected to the internet, which allows Bird to track any scooter that is potentially stolen. In addition, the electric lock restricts wheel movement and triggers an alarm if it is taken without being unlocked through the app. Also, if someone interferes with the electronics, the Bird loses power and the wheel locks are triggered, rendering it useless.
In June of 2018, Lime brought their “Lime-S” scooters to Los Angeles to compete with Bird. Lime charges a $1 fee to unlock the Lime-S scooter and an additional $0.36 per minute. Lime-S scooters can go as fast as 14.8 mph and also can also be parked anywhere in the city.
Rideshare services are also getting into the market. Lyft has branded their own scooters, and Uber has JUMP scooters. With so many options competitively priced, the opportunities for riding a scooter around Los Angeles are nearly endless.
ARE ELECTRIC SCOOTERS A TREND, OR HERE TO STAY?
Some argue that the electric scooters are just a trend and will not last long, but many disagree. Electric scooters have allowed people to get from point A to B in a much faster and cheaper way. For example, if you are walking around Century City at 4 p.m. on a weekday and need to get to Westwood, which is 2 miles away, you can just go outside, hop on an electric scooter, and arrive at your destination within minutes. This is much faster and cheaper than ordering a Lyft or Uber and sitting in traffic. The convenience and flexibility has allowed electric scooters to become an ideal alternative form of transportation.
In fact, electric scooters companies have seen huge demand from potential investors and have formed partnerships with names such as Uber, which has invested almost half a billion dollars in electric scooter companies. This goes to show that these scooters are here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future.
The convenience and flexibility of electric scooters have also caused many potential dangers. Many users weave in and out of traffic while riding these electric scooters, causing a risk not only to the users but to pedestrians as well. These scooters can also be difficult to spot by drivers on the road, increasing the risk of riders being hit by cars. These accidents can result in serious injuries or fatalities to both riders and pedestrians.
Riding Electric Scooters Safely
Both Bird and Lime have acknowledged the dangers of their own electric scooters. Both companies have recently released statements and videos advising that riders must wear helmets, be 18 or older to ride, not block pedestrian walkways, and park electric scooters safely.
It is important to remember that electric scooters are considered “motorized scooters” under California Vehicle Code Section 407.5, which defines a “motorized scooter” as any two-wheeled device that has handlebars, a floorboard that is designed to be stood upon when riding, and is powered by an electric motor. Thus, scooters are subject to the law promulgated under the California Vehicle Code.
For example, California Vehicle Code Section 21235 requires motorized scooter operators to wear a helmet, have a valid driver’s license, operate the scooters without any passengers, and not leave the scooter in a position that would not leave an inadequate path for pedestrian traffic. Failing to follow these rules can put an electric scooter driver at risk of danger and cause them to be potentially liable for accidents.
In addition, given that electric scooters are considered a motorized vehicle, users must follow California Vehicle Code Section 21230. Section 21230 states than electric scooters may not be operated on a sidewalk. If electric scooter riders fail to abide by these rules, they will be issued citations. The City of Beverly Hills has reported or warned over 150 riders for riding without a helmet, on the sidewalk, or without a license.
Potential Electric Scooter Accidents
Here are some common electric scooter accidents:
- Defective Conditions: Many metropolitan areas have sidewalks, potholes, and surfaces that are poorly maintained. These cracks and defects of the roads and sidewalks can cause users to lose control.
- Drivers: The electric scooters can be hard to see and can often times be missed by drivers on the road leading to serious injuries if a car runs into a rider.
- Pedestrians: People on sidewalks can also be susceptible to injuries due to tripping on electric scooters, being hit by scooter riders, or becoming injured while avoiding a scooter.
CAN BIRD OR LIMEBIKE BE HELD LIABLE FOR YOUR ACCIDENT?
Depending on the circumstances, an electric scooter company may be liable for your injuries. The electric scooter could be liable if there is a manufacturing defect with the scooter, meaning the parts or design of the scooter is defective. This scenario is less likely, but there are other third parties that may be liable for your injuries.
If Bird is not liable, then who is?
- Car Driver: If an electric scooter is hit by a vehicle, the car driver may be held liable for the injuries suffered.
- Electric Scooter Rider: The rider of the electric scooter can be held liable when a pedestrian is hit by a rider.
- City: The city may be held liable if there is defective condition such as poorly maintained surfaces or a pothole that causes scooter rider injuries.
- Homeowner: A homeowner may be held liable if he or she fails to address hazards that lead to injuries or accidents.
- Business: If a scooter rider is injured by a hazard created by business, the business may be held liable for the scooter riders’ injuries. In addition, a business may be held liable if an employee uses a scooter for business purposes.
What to do if you are involved in an Accident with an Electric Scooter?
- Rule #1: Make sure you are safe. If you are involved in a serious accident, you should immediately visit a local hospital or urgent care to get the treatment you need.
- Rule# 2: Call 911 to report what happened or to request an ambulance. Make sure you provide the reporting officer with an honest and truthful statement of how the accident occurred.
- Rule#3: Exchange Information. Make sure to get the information of any other person involved in the collision. This includes taking a picture of their driver’s license and insurance card. If involved in an incident with a motor vehicle, document the make, model, year and license plate of the vehicles involved.
- Rule #4: Witnesses. It is important to gather as much evidence as you can at the scene. This includes take down a statement and information of any witness or anyone else involved in the incident.
- Rule #5: Bills. Make sure you keep a copy of your medical bills and records.
- Rule #6: Contact an attorney. Call a professional scooter accident lawyer as soon as possible, so they can guide your case as you focus on your health and recovery.
As convenient and efficient these new electric scooters have been, local citizens have expressed their complaints over the dangers and nuisance of having electric scooters on sidewalks. Most recently, a San Diego citizen whose daughter and ex-wife suffered serious injuries in an electric scooter crash lobbied San Diego City Council members to have electric scooters banned from sidewalks. Him and other supporters of the ban reasoned that electric scooters are hazardous and should not be allowed on boardwalks.
Some cities have listened to the public outcry and have begun banning electric scooters. For example, in 2018, the City of Beverly Hills issued an ordinance banning electric scooters. The ordinance prohibited electric scooters from being in any public right-of-way or on public property, operated in any public-right-of-way or on public property, or offered for use anywhere in the City. The city council mentioned that the concern for public safety and a lack of any advanced planning and outreach by the motorized scooter companies as the primary reason for the ordinance.
Santa Monica has also cracked down on scooter usage, with police officers writing tickets to scooter riders who fail to follow the Vehicle Code sections discussed above.
HOW KHS CAN HELP YOU
If you are or someone you know has been injured while on a scooter or by a scooter, call Kramer Trial Lawyers for a case evaluation. We understand the pain and stress that victims and their families go through after a serious incident, and we are here to relieve that pressure. For almost a decade, KTL has helped numerous clients get the justice they deserve.