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Scooters In Cleveland To Make A Return – Are There Safety Concerns?

July 22, 2019

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Scooter rental has recently surpassed bicycle rentals as the most popular form of “micro-mobility transportation”-- transportation by vehicles that can only support one or two riders.  Cities and individuals have come to see scooter rental as a means of addressing certain gaps in public transportation systems.  The problem -- known as the "first mile/last mile" issue -- arises when a person's final destination is beyond reasonable walking distance from a transit station.  Cities faced with this issue often find adding more stops to existing transit routes to be cost-prohibitive.  So they turn to Mobility as a Service (MaaS) technology, filling the transportation gaps with other mobility services. One of the new trends in this branch of technology is scooter rental. 

Rental companies like Bird or Lime make scooters available for a charge, typically by the hour or minutes used. Everything can be done on an app and, when finished with the scooter, the user can park it anywhere in the city. Company employees then round them up for servicing or recharging. However, several issues arise with such a business. Rental agreements typically contain liability releases.  This may present a problem if the user is involved in an accident with pedestrians or other vehicles, particularly if the accident results in serious injury or death. The scooters' quiet electric motors often do not make themselves known to oncoming pedestrians, increasing the likelihood of accidents if riders or pedestrians are inattentive.  Even more danger arises when companies, like Bird, just drop a fleet of scooters in a city without warning and without a permit.

Following the unannounced arrival of Bird in August of 2018, Cleveland City Council ordered the company to remove the scooters due to the obvious safety concerns. Now, as of June 6, 2019, Cleveland is allowing the companies to obtain permits to operate in certain neighborhoods, including downtown, Ohio City, and University Circle. New regulations were developed last April, using cities like Columbus as an example. To encourage safety, scooter riders must be at least 18 years old, and the scooters will be limited to going 12 miles per hour on roads with a speed limit under 35 miles per hour. The scooters must be parked in an upright position so as not to impede pedestrian traffic, following reports of scooters littering sidewalks in various cities. The appeal of the rental service to the city lies in the increased revenue for creating bike lanes and other improvement projects, which would benefit the city as a whole.

The personal risk of using scooters lies in the lack of insurance coverage if riders were to get into an accident. Traditional auto insurance policies may not cover scooter riders in an accident. People that make regular use of scooter rental services are advised to buy a scooter policy to protect them in case of an accident. The release of liability upon signing a scooter rental agreement also makes it harder to pursue damages in court. Attorneys could find it difficult to prove that a defective scooter was the cause of injury because the scooters could be used multiple times beforehand by other riders. So, it’s important to follow adequate safety precautions when renting scooters, because not only can they cause harm to the rider, but it may be difficult to recover from an accident if one were to happen.

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