Modern, urban commuters sure love to scoot

It was this past Labor Day weekend when my husband and I, along with some longtime friends who now live in Greensboro, N.C., and Atlanta decided, on a whim, to reunite for a weekend getaway.

Someone suggested Columbus and quickly we all were in for an Ohio State football game.

It was that weekend when I finally became personally acquainted with the 21st century motorized ride-share industry.

(When I gleefully texted to relay the news to my 21-year-old son, he found great amusement at my thrill of having “Ubered” — from our hotel to Ohio Stadium — for the first time ever.)

As remarkable as that form of shared public transportation was, what I found even more amazing was the number of people there whizzing around campus on publicly shared motorized scooters.

At the risk of sounding a lot like the mom that I am, my initial response was this: “Wow! They are going really fast — and without a helmet!” Next was, “Do you have to have any proper training to ride those things?”

I quickly found out you didn’t. That’s when someone on a borrowed scooter zipped from the sidewalk into the street with total disregard for the poor Uber driver who was trying to maneuver us out of the post-game stadium traffic and back to our hotel.

Under the ride-share business model, anyone with the app on a smartphone can rent a scooter from wherever the last rider happened to leave it — whether alongside the road, on a sidewalk or at the curb. That makes it even more likely that riders won’t be wearing helmets.

Enabled by GPS technology, the scooters provide an easy way for pedestrians to travel relatively short distances in urban settings. Apparently, Columbus isn’t the only place that e-scooters have become all the rage — and also not the only place where some say they are becoming a nuisance.

In Charlotte, N.C., for example, riders racked up 82,523 trips covering 81,484 miles in December. But city council there voted in January to ban e-scooters from sidewalks in most of the uptown, as well as cap speeds and charge scooter companies a per-unit fee.

Other cities such as Seattle, Saint Paul, Nashville, Boston and Miami also have banned the scooters, reported Fox News.

A recent investigation by Consumer Reports that I read last week found 1,500 e-scooter injuries reported nationwide since 2017 — and that doesn’t include all hospitals because many still don’t track them. The figure was obtained in a “spot tally” the magazine compiled from major hospitals and other public agencies, such as police departments, contacted in recent weeks.

Consumer Reports contacted hospitals and agencies in 47 cities where big scooter companies operate. Several doctors reported treating serious e-scooter injuries since the ride-share fleets started showing up on city streets about a year and a half ago.

The emergency chief at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta estimated the emergency department treated 360 such injuries. Vanderbilt Hospital in Nashville has seen 250 people with injuries.

“We’ve had multiple concussions, nasal fractures, bilateral forearm fractures, and some people have required surgery,” said Beth Rupp, medical director at the Indiana University Health Center where ride-share e-scooters were introduced in September.

Yikes!

Certainly, the visionary behind the e-scooter business was brilliant. The system is profitable and full of positives.

Fun? Sure. Easy and convenient? Absolutely.

But risky? Without a doubt.

At this point in my life, it’s probably safe to say my son’s amusement with my ride-share initiation will be limited to modes of transportation with four wheels and doors.

blinert@tribtoday.com

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