What do E-Scooters Mean for Road Safety in Canada?

In July, Calgary became the first Canadian city to welcome ‘dockless electronic scooters’ to its streets. E-scooter companies like Bird and Lime are enormously popular in United States tech hubs like San Francisco, Austin, and Portland, and are available in more than 100 cities worldwide. They are also magnets for criticism from city officials, road safety experts, and personal injury lawyers.

What are E-Scooters?

E-scooters are app-based public transportation vehicles that operate much like bike-sharing programs. However, e-scooter companies don’t have designated drop-off zones; users locate and unlock the nearest available scooter on a mobile app, ride it to their destination, and leave it wherever they please. At the end of the day, freelance contractors collect the scooters, charge them, and return them to pick-up areas.

The first scooters from Bird, the industry leader, appeared in Santa Monica, California, in September 2017. Lime, Bird’s primary competitor, launched in Greensboro, North Carolina, three months earlier. Both companies intend to expand to Toronto in the near future. 

“We’d love to be in Toronto tomorrow,” Bird Canada CEO Stewart Lyons told the Toronto Star. “Talk to your city councilors! If we could get something by the end of the summer, that would be great.”

Benefits

Bird, Lime, and their supporters believe e-scooters are the future of urban transportation. They combine the mobility and speed of a bicycle with the freedom of walking. They’re also environmentally friendly and, in cities where they are widely available, extremely convenient and affordable.

Criticisms

Critics, including some personal injury lawyers, insist that e-scooters are a nuisance and are unsafe. In cities like Austin and San Francisco, where e-scooters are ubiquitous, residents complain that riders and abandoned scooters create congestion on sidewalks.

Researchers are also beginning to understand the public health impacts of scooter-sharing programs. A February 2019 report from Consumer Reports estimated that there had been 1,500 e-scooter injuries in the United States since late 2017. The study relied on direct reports from hospital staff in metropolitan centers: Atlanta’s Grady Memorial Hospital, for example, estimated 360 emergency department visits related to e-scooters; Nashville’s Vanderbilt Hospital reported 250.

A small-scale study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Austin’s Public Health identified 271 riders with e-scooter related injuries over an 87-day period in that city. Forty-five per cent of the riders incurred head injuries, including 15 per cent who suffered traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). Just 15 per cent wore helmets. With an estimated 936,110 e-scooter trips taken during the study period, the CDC estimated an injury rate of roughly 20 per 100,000 rides.

E-Scooters in Canada

With Bird e-scooters arriving in Calgary and a Lime pilot project underway in Waterloo, Ontario, it’s only a matter of time before e-scooters appear on the streets of Toronto and other major Canadian cities. Injuries – and calls to personal injury lawyers – are sure to follow.

If you or someone you know has been injured in a traffic accident, contact Will Davidson LLP today to learn how our team of experienced personal injury lawyers can help. Arrange a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss your legal options.


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