September 7, 2021

Report from Calgary: E-scooters, Helmets and Accidents

Orchid Chong, now living in Calgary, sends in this report on one of the issues that will shape the adoption and regulation of micromobility – effectively anything with a small electric motor.  Calgary makes for an interesting case study since, when it comes to e-scooters, it is significantly advanced over Vancouver:

This past spring, it was announced that scooters were here to stay and that the companies, Bird Canada and Neuron Mobility were the chosen operators to put a combined fleet of 1,500 permanent scooters on Calgary roads and adhere to a variety of changes.

From CBC Calgary:

The latest numbers on e-scooter use

There have been 675 crashes involving scooters that required an emergency room visit in Calgary from May 28 — when the city gave the go-ahead for e-scooters to resume rentals — to Aug. 24, according to an ongoing study.

Stephanie VandenBerg is a University of Calgary clinical assistant professor involved in the study that has been tracking the number of e-scooter accidents reported by Alberta Health Services.

She says they’re still crunching the numbers but based on previous years’ data, about 10 per cent of those accidents likely involved seated mobility scooters rather than e-scooters — meaning roughly 607 crashes this summer.

And while that is still a small portion compared to the total number of rides, which according to the latest numbers available from the city is 377,910 trips taken from May 28 to July 31, there is still cause for concern.

The researcher, who is also an emergency physician with AHS, says out of those accidents, around 138 resulted in head injuries like face lacerations, concussions and jaw fractures.

“As an emergency physician and someone with some real-world experience, we can certainly say that helmets prevent skull fractures,” she said. “So from a helmet point of view, helmets would save heads and we would encourage them for, you know, anybody who’s operating anything that moves faster than a walk.”

VandenBerg acknowledges that e-scooter injuries only account for 3.6 per cent of traumas seen in the emergency centre during the summer.

“It’s relatively uncommon in the grand scheme of things when you consider everybody who’s getting hurt from sports accidents to motor vehicle collisions to bicycles,” she said.

However, she says what’s interesting is that most of the injuries on e-scooters seem completely preventable.

“There really is no reason why people are getting injured on e-scooters, except that there isn’t the infrastructure to keep them safe on an e-scooter or people are scooting dangerously,” she said.

“And that includes being intoxicated, not wearing a helmet, having two people on an e-scooter. So there’s ways to prevent most of these injuries.” …

Despite the number of injuries that have been reported, VandenBerg doesn’t believe the solution is to ban the devices.

“What we know from reviewing other studies in other parts of North America, largely in the United States, we have learned that these e-scooters are too fast for the sidewalk and too slow for the road,” she said.

“Hypothetically speaking, if there was some type of path or place for them in the larger scheme of motor vehicles, then that perhaps could make them safer for users.”

Viewpoint has been following the helmet issue for a decade – and fully expects it will arise again.  But as seen with Mobi, even the requirement and provision of helmets doesn’t mean they will be used, and may even discourage the use of alternatives to the motor-vehicle.  The pro- and con-arguments then become almost theological.

 

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  1. Two observations from having used e-scooters in the SF Bay Area:

    1) It’s easy to safely share the sidewalk in suburban areas, like Port Moody or Surrey up here. Just slow down and dismount whenever you approach someone walking. Even better is a wide bike lane or path, fully separated from traffic, with room for cyclists to pass. Painted bike lanes are no good for scooters.

    2) Wearing a helmet on a scooter is obviously better than not, but like a seatbelt in a car or a mask on transit, it’s only a secondary layer of protection, after getting vaccinated or avoiding crashes. Scooters are just one more reason our streets need to be safer for everyone who uses them.

  2. Many e-scooters are travelling via more popular MUP routes which include the Peace Bridge, featured in the above photo. It seems enough folks/riders treat it as a fun, short term thing. Not something they are regularily using. One indicator is the desire to snap photos of each other on e-scooter. ie. look at what we did type of memento. With Peace Bridge backdrop..it’s picturesque.

    I’ve seen less double-riding this yr. and this is strictly anecdotal since home isn’t far from bridge. As a cyclist, never thrilled to be near them. It’s very different than a newbie cyclist nearby since already a newbie cyclist has ventured in increments onto routes and pavement areas carefully and can stop themselves better/more safety with their 2 feet. Yes, most e-scooters don’t wear helmets even though the company provided helmet is dangling from their post. Because of their limitations on the road vs. pathways, they aren’t as versatile as a bike. So I would be always encouraging folks to learn good bike skills..in addition to the better health/fitness benefits on a longer term basis.

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