Safety concerns over electric scooters in Cleveland

Last summer, electric scooters made an unexpected appearance in Cleveland. The scooter company Bird shows up in Cleveland one day in August, dropping off hundreds of electric scooters as part of its new rental service in the city. The electric scooter rental program operates similarly to bike-sharing services--which have become popular in many U.S. cities in the last decade.

It works like this: a customer can locate and check out an electric scooter using their smartphone. They are then prompted to accept Bird's terms and conditions. Among other things, the rider must verify that they:

  • Are wearing a helmet,
  • Are at least 18,
  • Are riding alone and
  • Aren't carrying a bag or briefcase.

The customer is then free to ride the scooter--which travels up to 15 miles per hour--in city streets.

However, there have been many reported instances of riders breaking these rules--resulting in injury to themselves and others. In addition, because Bird's rental service doesn't provide any designated docking stations, scooters are frequently left abandoned in sidewalks and entryways--causing injury to pedestrians. Last summer, emergency rooms across the country saw a surge in injuries caused by electric scooters--from broken bones to brain injuries.

Cleveland promptly responded to the unannounced arrival of electric scooters by kicking Bird out of the city within a week of their arrival. The city cited safety and zoning concerns in their decision.

However, Bird has a history of showing up unannounced in a new city, being removed and then making a return later on. Speculators believe the same could happen in Cleveland.

If Bird scooters make a return, they bring with them a whole range of potential liability questions--such as whether an accident was caused by someone's negligence and whether the rider was using the scooter according to the company's conditions. For the moment, Bird must prove they can make electric scooters a safe, viable transportation option for Cleveland residents.

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