With the numerous studies that prove conclusively the dangers of typical transportation, including cars, trucks, and SUVs, on our environment, it makes sense to find a better travel method to get you from place to place. But while riding your bike or using an electric scooter may be better for the environment, it can be dangerous to your safety.
In congested cities like Los Angeles, using other methods of transport is popular. This is usually because it’s cheaper, better for the environment, and faster to ride a bike or an electric scooter than a regular vehicle. Even though you can’t go “as fast” as a car on these modes of transport, it’s better to go 15 mph in a bike lane than to sit stuck in traffic for hours.
E-scooter startups like Lyft and Bird make it simple to choose a quick scooter instead of an Uber or cab ride for residents and tourists. It’s simply a matter of unlocking the scooter with their smartphone app and then turning them in once they reach their final destination via the same app. Bike share companies use a similar program.
The popularity of e-scooters and bikes are, without a doubt, helpful to the ecosystem. But they come equipped with their own set of dangers to the rider. And, with the many complaints of people tripping over left-behind scooters and bikes lying around the city, there’s also the peril to the unsuspecting pedestrian.
With so many hazards to consider, e-scooter and bike riders have their own set of rights and responsibilities to be aware of. If you’re planning on jumping on board this popular method of transportation, either temporarily or for good, here are some of the most important things you need to know before you ride to protect yourself and others.
Common Dangers of Riding Bikes and E-Scooters
Just because kids can ride them doesn’t mean they’re simple to operate. There’s a big difference between the Razors and Huffy bikes of our youth and driving electric scooters and sharable bikes in traffic.
For starters, a big percentage of people using these methods in big cities like Los Angeles are tourists – newbies to the city and amateurs at riding their bikes or scooters on busy roads. They may or may not have experience on electric scooters and multi-gear bikes, but they definitely don’t know the area well. That’s a danger by itself.
As tourists in a new area with as much excitement as L.A. has, there’s a lot of stopping and gawking, photo opportunities, selfies, and last-second braking. These actions are typical of tourists, but the dangers that come with them can be avoided when riders learn the rules and laws before they start up their transportation.
If you’re riding an e-scooter or a bicycle in California, know these laws before you pedal:
- Don’t ride on a sidewalk. Riding your e-scooter or bike on a sidewalk is dangerous to you and to the pedestrians. Instead, you are legally supposed to use bicycle lanes or on the streets, following the same safety laws as other vehicles.
- Helmets are required. One of the common arguments against e-scooter and bike shares is that the companies don’t provide helmets. California law requires the riders to wear a helmet at all times, though (this only applies to bikes if you’re under 18). If you’re planning to rent a bike or e-scooter, have your helmet ahead of time. Bird and Lime, two e-scooter share companies, will send you a helmet for free if you request one.
- You must have a driver’s license to use an e-scooter. Whether you’re renting or driving your own, you must have a valid driver’s license to operate an e-scooter. To rent one, you usually need to scan your valid license the first time.
- You have a maximum speed limit. Your max speed depends on what you are riding and it’s your responsibility to know your limit. For instance, type 3 electric bicycles and gas-powered bikes can go up to 28 mph and they are not allowed on most trails and bike paths. These types of bikes also must have helmets used with them and have a minimum age requirement of 16.
But low-speed electric bikes that can’t go over 20 mph can be used anywhere regular bikes are allowed unless specifically prohibited. E-scooters have a max speed of 15 mph.
- You must ride with traffic. E-scooter and bike riders must ride with the flow of traffic, but where you’re allowed to ride is different. Ignorance of the laws doesn’t get you off the hook, so consult the local rules where you plan to ride ahead of time.
Bikes and e-scooters are generally accepted as common modes of transportation, but just because they are legal in your city doesn’t mean they are legal at your destination. For instance, many universities and shopping malls prohibit e-scooters and limit bikes.
Check with your local rideshare companies, too. Bird, for instance, has No-Go Zones on its map where people have informed the company that their e-scooters are not welcome.
Are E-Scooters and Bikes Safer than Cars?
According to Consumer Reports, there have been at least a dozen deaths attributed to shared e-scooters since their popularity skyrocketed back in 2017. Hundreds of people in L.A. alone sought emergency room care for injuries related to their e-scooters. And bicyclist injuries are on the rise, with Los Angeles receiving the unpopular title of one of the ten most dangerous cities for bikers.
Yet, these same studies often admit that confusion regarding regulations and laws, or just plain disobedience of those laws, is the cause of many of these injuries.
Many of these injuries and fatalities would have been preventable. The main aspect that makes e-scooter riders, bicyclists, and pedestrians so susceptible to injury is that there is nothing to protect them in the event of a collision.
This fact means that inexperienced riders or those who don’t know/follow safety laws are a danger to themselves and to those around them.
Drivers of motor vehicle cars often find it difficult to see e-scooters and bicyclists who are required to ride on the street with other vehicles. Intersection accidents are common, too, especially with so many distracted drivers behind the wheel. The e-scooter rider or bicyclist may have the right of way, but if a driver fails to stop to let them cross, dangerous accidents happen.
Another common accident for e-scooter riders and bikers is “dooring.” When a driver parks their car and gets out without looking, the open door becomes an obstacle for bikers and e-scooter riders. This is just one of the many road hazards they must face, in addition to potholes, broken asphalt, debris in the road, and other obstacles that cause them to swerve quickly to avoid a collision.
Even Low-Speed Collisions Can be Dangerous
E-scooters and bikes may not be traveling very fast, but those collisions can result in serious injuries. Without the benefit of heavy material surrounding them, the rider absorbs the full force of the impact themselves.
Bike and e-scooter collisions can result in fatalities and catastrophic injuries, including:
- Closed head injuries and concussions
- Internal bleeding
The damage caused by a collision isn’t always about the speed. Sometimes it’s the wrong angle of impact, landing the wrong way when you fall, or another factor that causes the increased severity of the injury.
To minimize your risk of injury in the event of an accident, be sure you do everything that you can to ensure your safety. Wear a helmet and other safety gear, learn the rules and regulations of the area in which you are traveling, and view the roads on a map ahead of time. It’s also a good idea to wear bright clothing to make yourself extra visible.
Don’t assume the other drivers are paying attention and will give you the right of way. It’s up to you to be cautious but confident while operating your bike or e-scooter.
If you’re a tourist, try to limit your sightseeing to planned stops along your route. Park your bike or e-scooter, trace your path again while you are walking, and don’t be an obstruction to other pedestrians if you can help it.
As a rider of an e-scooter and a biker, you must be actively working to avoid accidents. You can be the injured party, or you can be the at-fault party if you aren’t careful.
Filing a Personal Injury Claim in a Bike or E-Scooter Accident
If you were injured in a collision with a bike or e-scooter, you may be able to receive compensation for your damages.
There are many factors that will come into play to determine your rights, including:
- Whether you signed a liability waiver with the company you rented your equipment from,
- Whether you were partially at fault (California is a pure comparative negligence state, so even if you were at fault in part, you may still have a claim),
- How the accident occurred,
- If there were any code or law violations by any party.
Your rights to compensation will depend on the details of your accident, so talk to a knowledgeable personal injury lawyer at Hershey Law for your free consultation to find out if you have a case.