Why e-scooters have been dangerous for riders in cities like Seattle

Feb 10, 2020, 8:20 AM | Updated: 8:22 am
The safety of e-scooters remains a concern for many cities. (AP)

Safety has long been a concern for any city looking to test electric scooters on its streets, Seattle among them. But what exactly is it that makes them a magnet for traffic accidents?

Seattle builds roadmap for e-scooters, plans launch in 2020

“The barrier for entry is so low,” said KIRO Nights co-host Mike Lewis. “There are literally are people out there who are uncomfortable or nervous about riding a bicycle, and so they just don’t. But almost anyone’s going to get on (an e-scooter).”

By the time e-scooters arrive in a major metropolitan area, odds are most people have little to no experience on them. And when everyone is learning at the same time, that can cause issues.

“Way more people, when they tried them in cities, jumped on and tried these things than they did with bicycles,” Lewis pointed out. “So I think they saw that there would be a broader range of people with less experience.”

That being so, safety concerns run much deeper than the people riding the scooters; rather, it’s an issue of physics.

“The weird thing about electric scooters people don’t realize, is that the size of the wheel matters on any vehicle’s stability,” Lewis described. “But when you have two wheels, the size of wheels and amount of centrifugal force it creates makes it stable or unstable.”

“Tiny wheels are fundamentally … very, very twitchy, and this is the problem with some of the accidents here, particularly when the scooters are not kept at a low speed,” he added.

More scooter share companies rolling into Washington cities

According to a recent report from Quartz, “at least” 29 people have died in electric scooter accidents since 2018. While that’s well below what we see for vehicle or bicycle deaths, it’s still been cause for concern for cities like Seattle, where implementation has been slow.

Seattle first laid out its roadmap for bringing in e-scooters last August, carefully going through the process to deal with permits, regulations, and safety measures. Most estimates have the popular offering arriving in the city sometime around early-to-mid 2020.

Listen to the KIRO Nights weeknights from 7 – 10 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Why e-scooters have been dangerous for riders in cities like Seattle