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Data tracking electric scooter collisions still incomplete

Thursday, August 18, 2022 by Samuel Stark

If you’re an Austinite living within a few miles of downtown, there’s a good chance you know of someone who has been in an electric scooter crash, sustaining anything from a few scrapes to a much more serious injury.

Though scooter crashes and injuries occur with regularity around the city, there is currently no standardized approach to reporting these incidents. And until a policy guiding reporting is established, there is no way to know how many scooter-related crashes have occurred in the Austin area, said Joseph Al-hajeri, mobility demand program manager for the Austin Transportation Department.

“(Current reporting) is not complete. It doesn’t give a complete and accurate picture,” Al-hajeri told the Austin Monitor. “All (scooter crashes) are self-reported, and sometimes it doesn’t even get reported. EMS shows up, or APD shows up, and they might not even report it because they don’t know how,” he said.  

Electric scooters first arrived in Austin in 2018. Currently three companies – Lime, Bird and Link – are licensed to deploy dockless stand-up scooters in the area, and those three companies have over 11,000 devices permitted for use within the city limits.   

Since 2019, there have been nearly 11.5 million trips taken on scooters, or just under 9,000 trips on average a day, according to city micromobilty data.

While there’s no way to definitively know how many scooter crashes have occurred with current reporting, Al-hajeri said since the program’s inception there have been six scooter-related fatalities: One person was killed while riding a scooter during South by Southwest in 2019; one scooter-related fatality occurred in 2020, two in 2021 and another two riders have died in scooter crashes since January of this year. 

Both of last year’s fatalities were not due to the victims’ reckless driving but because another vehicle crashed into them, Al-hajeri said. “One of them was in East Austin, where a gentleman that actively used micromobility to get back and forth from work, unfortunately, was hit in the bike lane,” he said.

The Transportation Department is in the process of improving the reporting system, working with the micromobility companies and other stakeholders to create rules on how crashes must be reported. Once complete, the Transportation Department will present a draft of the rules to the relevant boards and commissions before being posted for public feedback. 

The Transportation Department is also planning to carry out public education campaigns to instruct riders on how best to avoid injuring themselves or others while riding and parking an electric scooter.

“We are working with the public and the providers to ensure that people are putting safety as a high regard when it comes to riding micromobility (devices),” Al-hajeri said.

In the meantime, for those who need a refresher on stand-up scooter riding rules, here is a list from the Shared Mobility Services program website:

  • Ride one person per device.
  • Yield to people walking and bicycling and people with disabilities.
  • Wear a helmet for safety: This is required for people under age 18.
  • Ride sober: Do not ride under the influence of intoxicants.
  • Follow traffic laws, signals and signs.
  • Ride with the flow of traffic.
  • Park with care; keep the sidewalk open.

Photo made available through a Creative Commons license.

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