After 192 Injuries, the Fate of Electric Scooters in Chicago Remains Undecided

Electric Scooters
E-Scotters are placed in alignment

City officials in Chicago, Illinois, remain undecided on whether to permit electronic scooter rentals after analyzing the safety and other impacts of a 2019 pilot program. Between June 15, 2019, and October 15, 2019, the city conducted an e-scooter share test; permitting 10 vendors to provide 250 electric scooters each for rent in specified areas. In pursuit of reaching a final decision, the city recommends conducting a subsequent pilot run to make adjustments to the program and rental rules and to gather further data.

Analyzing the Safety Impact of E-Scooters in Chicago, IL

Part of the city’s considerations in whether or not to establish an e-scooter share program relies on the potential impact of this mode of transportation on users and non-users alike. Falling from scooters or hitting other objects may result in abrasions, cuts, and bruises, as well as in more serious injuries such as broken bones, spinal cord injuries, and head trauma. Emergency departments across the state treated an average of 1.6 electric scooter-related injuries each day while the program took place. Limitations to the data collection methodology, however, may mean that even more people suffered injuries while riding e-scooters during the pilot period.

Those with whom riders shared the roads during the pilot period also suffered injuries as a result of electric scooters. At least 10 pedestrians sought treatment in area emergency departments after getting hit by an e-scooter rider, and one bicyclist also suffered injuries due to this type of accident.

Weighing the Transportation Benefits Against Adding to the City’s Congestion

Advocates of the program tout e-scooters as an option that reduces car use and improves transportation access. Of the respondents to a program study conducted by the city during the pilot period, almost 43% reported they would have opted for driving a personal vehicle or using a ride-hailing service if an electronic scooter was unavailable. The survey results seemingly support the program meeting its mission of providing more sustainable transportation modes and reducing passenger vehicle use.

Negative feedback relating to the program indicated many residents had concerns about e-scooter users inappropriately riding on the sidewalk, blocking paths of travel with parked electric scooters, and colliding with people. Additionally, some argue they saw increased congestion and car crashes on the streets during the pilot period and faced added concerns over avoiding collisions with riders weaving in and out of traffic.