As more scooters land in D.C., lawmakers should take steps to increase scooter safety

Dockless scooters and bikes are littered throughout the District.

In the past several years, tourists and D.C. residents have traded in walking and biking for motorized transportation on both the streets and sidewalks. The number of dockless scooters will only grow by the end of 2019, but the District should not allow more people to use the vehicles without increasing safety measures.

The D.C. Council has taken steps – like reducing scooter speed limits and allocating spaces for people to park their dockless vehicles – over the past year to increase scooter safety. But the number of scooter injuries in cities like San Diego and Austin, Texas is startlingly high, revealing that hundreds of people have sustained head injuries and other bodily harm after scooting around cities. The council should require riders to only use the street and wear helmets to reduce the number of injuries caused by motorized vehicles.

The structure of scooter companies also encourages people to travel at relatively high speeds on both the streets and sidewalks. Scooters can currently reach up to 10 miles per hour in the District. The second someone rents a scooter, a meter appears on their phone and the charges increase with every minute. The rider is competing with the budget and the clock on their phone, motivating them to ride faster than necessary. But some people might not be experienced riders or know the D.C. streets well, creating a dangerous environment for both the rider and nearby pedestrians and cars.

Dockless scooters are scattered on the District’s sidewalk and often unexpectedly zip by pedestrians. It is not uncommon to be startled or hit by someone riding a scooter. A D.C. councilmember has proposed increasing scooter speeds on streets and decreasing the speed on sidewalks, and the council should reconsider some of the legislation. People riding scooters should feel comfortable riding at a relatively high speed, but they should only ride on the street to ensure pedestrians are safe.

The speed limit is OK if someone is riding on the street, but 10 miles per hour is too high on a sidewalk. The District currently prohibits riders from using the sidewalk in the central business district, and that rule should apply to the entire city if the speed limit is not brought down. The council should reduce speed limits for scooters altogether or require that people only ride on the street to ensure pedestrian safety.

People riding scooters could also better protect themselves if they wear helmets. At least 1,500 people around the country have already been injured by scooters this year. This summer, hospitals around the country have reported patients arriving with scooter-related injuries. Although some injuries are minor, like scratches or flesh wounds, others have sustained fractures and internal bleeding. The severity of these injuries could have been reduced had riders worn helmets.

One scooter company can detect if someone is not wearing a helmet, and the council should pass legislation that ensures this technology is standard for any scooter company in the District. It would be devastating if someone were to be injured because the council ignored a serious danger in the District – scooters.

There are several close calls from scooters around D.C., and the possibility of more safety issues will only increase if the council does not take more measures to ensure safe streets for scooter riders, drivers and pedestrians.

Jane Cameron, a freshman majoring in journalism and mass communication, is an opinions writer.

Want to respond to this piece? Submit a letter to the editor.

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.