An Update on Chicago Scooter Injuries During the first 2 Weeks of the Pilot

Photo: John Greenfield
Photo: John Greenfield

Chicago’s dockless electric scooter pilot, which launched on June 15, is buzzing along, with 60,000 trips taken in the first week, according to city officials. Last night I appeared on WTTW’s “Chicago Tonight” show with Candice Xie, CEO of the Chicago-based scooter company VeoRide to discuss how things are going. You can watch the segment here.

I discussed the potential benefits of scooters: replacing car trips; improving transportation access in underserved communities; creating a new constituency for car-free lanes, and more. But safety remains a major question, since many of the devices seem to be prone to crashes on potholed street, and they’re not highly visible to drivers, especially from the side. A recent study of scooter injuries in Austin, Texas, found that about 5/6 of the cases didn’t involve a driver, and about a third of the crashes occurred on a rider’s first trip.

A little over two weeks into the pilot, Chicago has already seen a fair number of scooter-related crashes. Notably, Allyson Medeiros, 32, was biking in Wicker Park when a wrong-way scooter rider struck him, inflicting grievous facial injuries, and fled the scene.

Here are the latest local scooter-related injury numbers during the pilot, based on a WBBM report on cases at Rush Hospital, plus calls that Streetsblog’s Igor Studenkov and I made to just about all of the hospitals in or near (within about a mile of) the West and Northwest side pilot area. A few of the hospitals haven’t responded to inquiries yet.

  • Saints Mary and Elizabeth Hospitals (Wicker Park): “About ten” ER visits
  • Northwestern Hospital (Streeterville): “Around six” ER visits
  • Rush Hospital (Illinois Medical District): Two patients requiring surgery
  • Mount Sinai Hospital (North Lawndale): Two ER visits
  • Cook County Hospital (Illinois Medical District) One patient requiring surgery (Medeiros)
  • University of Illinois Hospital (Illinois Medical District): No ER Visits

So as of yesterday, there were 21 cases within about two weeks. While it’s possible some of the injuries involved privately owned scooters, it’s likely the vast majority of the riders were using rental scooters. If we double the number of trips taken in the first week to 120,000 rides, that comes to one ER visit per 5,714 trips. That would be in the same ballpark as the Austin, Texas, figure of about one hospitalization per 5,000 rides, although those figures probably underestimate injuries because they don’t count injuries seen by a regular doctor.

So while the Chicago scooter pilot doesn’t seem to be resulting in a bloodbath yet, the numbers do suggest that some caution is warranted. If you take a test ride, make sure you’re familiar with how the gizmo works, ride sober, stay off the sidewalks, travel in the direction of traffic, and consider wearing a helmet, since the devices seem to be quite a bit riskier than using bike-share.

 

  • JoeDokes999

    Scooters are a great option and I hope they expand them to other areas of Chicago. Meanwhile, 40 pedestrians are killed each year by cars in Chicago, and 40,000 Americans (including many children) die from vehicle accidents each year, which cost us $871 billion/year, so anything that reduces car traffic is a plus.

  • Ryan Houser

    Death rate/head injuries of scooters in comparison to bike sharing companies is astronomical. We as cities are not planned properly for this, and have not come up with good laws regarding scooters. Let’s take a step back and think about this. These are mopeds! Can anybody not see that?

  • Michael

    The city is already paying out far too much in lawsuits and this will just make the situation worse. In Tempe AZ, the city passed a law mandating scooter companies be held liable for injuries and fully exempting the city if scooter companies want to place the scooters in the city. They scooter companies are also billed a whole host of fees for improper placement of scooters including on the ASU campus which has long banned motorized vehicles of any kind. Temple charges the scooter companies a $7,888 application fee, a “right of way use fee” of $1.06 per scooter per day, and a $100 relocation fee for scooters outside or zones or parked improperly.

    The result of asking the scooter companies to take responsibility in Tempe for both injury liability and for taking the responsibility of properly relocating their scooters, has the majority of the companies pulling their scooters from the streets and leaving the university town. They say that being held liable and fining them for breaking the rules is unaffordable and unsustainable so they have moved on to other, more lax, and more easily bought off cities, like Chicago.

    These companies know they are causing serious problems including major liability to the cities and citizens where they dump thousands of their dangerous and unregulated products nearly overnight on the streets. This includes, among other things, increased healthcare costs to everyone (insurance rates go up for everyone when hospital emergency rooms are flooded with those injured from either riding or by a someone riding), blocking of sidewalks, streets and bike paths, consumption of cities resources to enforce and monitor usage, and on and on.

    As soon as a city catches up with understand the scooter plague that infests town and people, the invariably their create rules and laws to hold scooter companies liable, such as they did in Tempe, And the result is that these multi-billionaire opportunists flee the cities where the dumped the scooters.

    Make no mistake, the backlash will not subside, cities, the healthcare and legal system will respond, and these motorized vehicles will soon be dramatically reduced or eliminated from the streets… at least in most cities.

    Chicago? Unfortunately, the kickbacks and payoffs have already been made, so it is rather certain that we will lag other cities in safety and pulling these from the streets. We are basically having to fight a multi billion dollar industry with a very powerful lobby that has many people in government, “media” and alleged community organizations in their back pockets. I’m afraid the many people will need to be seriously injured or killed and the city will pay millions in liability claims and the insurance and health care industry in the city will need to suffer major loses before we step up and do something about it… it is just the Chicago way.

  • Jennifer Melfi

    I’m happy to use them… they seem to work really well and are really popular. they seem to be used by all types of people from what I can see – very different from the divvy.

  • Victoria

    There’s no way the injury numbers are anywhere close to accurate. I personally know 3 people who suffered broken bones from scooter accidents within the first week.

  • Michael

    I would say you should report these by calling 311, but the city does nothing, will not record complaints, and no matter how hard you try, insists that you report problems directly to the companies responsible for this public health disaster.

    In other words, the city is doing a trial and test of scooter companies and having the very companies being tested, also being responsible for collecting and reporting their own data. And worse, there are NO reporting requirements as part of this phony “trial”. That just leaves some anecdotal research by media, and folks such as John Greenfield, to call around to hospitals and try to pry a few guesses from staff about how many are injured.

    The whole thing stinks of Classic Chicago corruption and it is clear the decision to approve a massive expansion of these death traps was made long before the trial period ever began. Basically the $20 billion scooter industry has bought off our city… yet another in a long list of big money corporations feeding on Chicago corruption, kickbacks and payoffs over safety of our citizens.

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