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Keven Moore: Fabulous (dangerous) E-Scooters — truly, some people just have no business riding them


On November 5th, a man riding a new Lime electric scooter (E-Scooter) in Lexington lost control and fell out of the bike lane crashing into the road and was struck by four passing vehicles, where he later died at a nearby hospital.

Just a few days before that, another man near the University of Kentucky campus was struck by a drunk driver in the early morning hours of October 26th but did not suffer non-life threatening injuries.

Both riders were operating these E-Scooters legally, and both these accidents happened just days after the city of Lexington allowed Lime and Spin Scooters to begin operating in the city. Now the city is looking into proposing changes to city ordinances that would allow electric scooters on some city sidewalks to better protect future scooter riders.

All across Kentucky and America, the electric scooters craze has made it into most large and mid-size cities. E-Scooter riders in the U.S. took 38.5 million trips on shared scooters last year and that number is projected to grow significantly by the end of 2019.
Louisville and Cincinnati have allowed E-scooters to operate in their cities since 2018 and accidents are occurring in those areas as well. In July of this year, 2 people on Lime scooter riding tandem ran a red light and collided with SUV in Covington.

According to a February 2019, Consumer Report titled  “E-Scooter Ride-Share Industry Leaves Injuries and Angered Cities in its Path,” they reported that at least eight people in the U.S. have died while using a rentable e-scooter since the fall of 2017. They also found that at least 1,500 riders had been injured, within that same time period.

The problem with scooters is that many cities still don’t have the infrastructure for bike lanes that can truly accommodate E-Scooter traffic, and as a result they still hold up traffic on narrow roads because they typically operate at 15 MPH. Even cities that offer bike lanes aren’t entirely safe for E-Scooters riders when you consider that you have moving cars and scooters with varying degrees of experience, ability, distractions,…etc., all intersecting at all hours and places.Then when you factor in the fact that many riders are not wearing helmets this is a disaster waiting to happen. When an E-Scooter rider has an encounter with a moving vehicle weighing excess of 4000lbs, they simply are not going to win.

Despite all the warnings, city laws and restrictions, what makes these E-Scooters so popular is that they are cheap to rent, readily accessible and offer an environmentally friendly alternative that reduces the number of people taking their vehicles out on the road. E- Scooters also offering a low-cost transportation alternative for poorer residents who cannot afford to own and operate vehicles.

Riders do not need to make any reservations; nobody telling will tell riders were to leave them once you are done using them. All you have to do is agree to the terms and have a valid credit card, and you can travel up to 15 miles at top speeds of 15-20 miles per hour.

It also doesn’t help that they market to an age group that hasn’t had years of wisdom and experience that feel invincible to all these moving exposures around them. They have yet to taste the consequences of such actions.

As a product of the 70’s who didn’t grow up wearing a bike helmet I can appreciate the survivability rate that my friends, neighbors, and classmates experienced, however back then we all weren’t allowed to ride in rush hour traffic balancing on two wheels navigating in and out of dangerous intersections either.

As an entrepreneur-minded capitalist, I find this successful idea to be mind-blowing and I’m asking myself, ‘Why didn’t I think of this?’ However with my risk management and safety training, I would have to call this “Scooter-Mageddon” as I can only visualize the risk exposures that these rented scooters present and just shake my head when one goes whizzing by.

Being somebody who can appreciate a good start-up business that fills a need, I would score them an A++, but as a risk-management and safety professional, I would have to score them as a D-. I would have scored them an F if it wasn’t for the fact that many are offering free helmets to their riders.

The issue is despite all the risks, riders are exposing themselves to liability and are most likely not insured for the damages they may cause. Yes, a rider’s personal health insurance — if he or she has it — will help offset the cost of their own medical bills in case of an accident.

But if a scooter rider hits and injures a pedestrian, damages someone’s property or causes a car accident the rider may be held responsible, and your typical insurance policies will not cover those expenses. The reality is insurance carriers that write homeowners and auto policies aren’t looking to add riders to their policy to cover these scooter exposures. It is just not going to happen. Insurance follows the vehicle and if you don’t own it and are simply renting it by the mile, you essentially are riding without any liability coverage.

This gap in coverage is not explained to the riders and most scooter companies place the responsibility for accidents on riders by listing in their rental agreements that riders relieve the companies of liability. In order to get on a  E-scooter, the rider must agree to those terms to ride and is fundamentally waving their rights away as a consumer.

E Scooter companies are fully insured for anything that might happen as a result of a faulty scooter; however any accident or loss caused by the operator does not fall under the umbrella of such policy.
Generally speaking, these waivers of liability that riders sign away to use a scooter should hold up in courtroom, but as time progresses I predict that it could be challenged once some of these cases are litigated in the form of a class-action lawsuit.

So what can scooter riders do to protect themselves? In an article in the Insurance Journal date June 28th, 2019, they suggest calling an insurance agent to ask how to get coverage. If you have a homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy, you may be able to add an “umbrella policy,” which can cover more scenarios and include higher limits for coverage than typical homeowner’s or renter’s policies.

You should read your policy and talk to your insurance agent to see if he/she can find coverage, but it still will be difficult to locate.

If you are willing to wait, there is an Israeli company that offers on-demand insurance for drone operators in the U.S. that is planning on rolling out per-ride insurance that covers electric scooters and is targeting riders and providers as potential customers.

To offset their exposures the E Scooter companies are still making changes to their scooters. For instance Taylor Bennett, director of public affairs for Lime said in an interview on Bloomberg’s podcast that they have upgraded its scooters with new safety features three times in the past year.

The latest version has bigger tires to take on potholes, brakes on the back wheel to prevent riders from hurtling over the handlebars, and dual suspension. The company is also handing out 250,000 helmets to its riders.

The fact still remains however that regardless of all the improvements and risk control measures the E-Scooter companies implement, some people have no business on a scooter, sober or not.

There isn’t any type of proficiency test that measures a rider’s ability, cognitive ability, balance, vision and common sense. Yes, a rider may have a driver’s license, but that doesn’t mean that he or she should go riding down the road with traffic at 15 MPH balancing on two wheels and navigating what’s in front of them.

So it is my professional risk aversion judgment to suggest that you avoid E-Scooters altogether and if you have any college-aged kids strongly discourage their use. But if you do ride, I would strongly try to inspire you to wear a helmet, avoid busy roads over the speed limit of 35 MPH, avoid riding at night (but if you do wear reflective clothing), and think about breaking the sidewalk law and ride on the sidewalks when there aren’t any pedestrians present.

Be Safe My Friends!

Keven Moore works in risk management services. He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Kentucky, a master’s from Eastern Kentucky University and 25-plus years of experience in the safety and insurance profession. He is also an expert witness. He lives in Lexington with his family and works out of both Lexington and Northern Kentucky. Keven can be reached at kmoore@roeding.com.


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2 Comments

  1. Common Sense Cyclist says:

    Whatever your position on these scooters is, no one should be making a recommendation to break the law.

    Scooters have absolutely no place on the sidewalk with pedestrians, for the same reasons bicycles are not allowed on sidewalks.

    There is no need to have bike lanes added for scooters either as the road is intended to be the path for all sorts of motorized or fast moving traffic and scooters and bikes both have full rights to the entire width of a designated lane.

    Perhaps the author of this “advice” should consider how reliant we have all become on vehicular traffic and how that has hurt our health, local economies and environment. If the real problem with these scooters is that drivers are too distracted to be bothered with them we eliminate the distraction or the distracted drivers rather than punish an innovative and convenient alternative to more cars on the roads that we can’t afford to repair.

  2. Steve Magas says:

    Not sure why you think H/O polices don’t cover careless scooter operation? They cover bicycle operators, e-bike operators and the like. I’ve got at least two cases percolating in which cyclists are using their H/O policy to defend against claims that they drove negligently. E-scooters are not “motor vehicles” under any code. Where there are local ordinances about e-scooters they are governed, typically, by the law applicable to bicycling.

    There was a study of injuries in Austin recently. MOST crashes were NOT with cars – but driver induced. Most occurred in the 1st ride or the 1st few. There is a definite learning curve. The small wheels make maneuvering & obstacles trickier than you might intuitively think.

    Not sure why you think “class actions” will throw out the release. No evidence of that. The release has a lot of problems, but thoroughness isn’t one. It’s 40 pages, with 2 point type on your phone. nobody reads them. I did b/c I was presenting on The Law of E-Scooters. There are 3 percolating class actions. One is based on nuisance in LA. One is based on a violation of ADA laws in San Diego and one is based on the failure to properly vet the renters in NYC. The release will play a huge role in all of them.If the electronic micro-print release is found to be ineffective, or worse “unconscionable” then the industry will fail. Right now, they will say you give your right to sue them for ANYTHING in the release… including faulty equipment, bad brakes, scooters that fall apart, etc etc etc.

    There are insurers starting to offer e-scooter coverage, just as there are insurance companies offering “bike” insurance for folks who don’t drive a car and don’t have access to UM/UIM or Medical Payments coverage.

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