Although hard numbers aren't available, anecdotal evidence and recent news accounts suggest that since Lime and Bird scooters arrived in Kansas City this summer, emergency rooms are seeing an increase in scooter-related injuries.
Kansas City joins other cities reporting an uptick in scooter-related injuries following the arrival of companies like Lime and Bird and their products' rising popularity.
Dr. Aaron Kaus, an emergency room physician at Saint Luke’s Hospital, said the most common injuries involve the face and head. So far, he said, none of the injuries have involved collisions with other vehicles.
“I’ve heard from ones who, more or less, lose control of the scooters when they hit either a pothole or a crack, or transition from the sidewalk to the street,” he said.
Kaus said the speed of electric scooters is another factor contributing to riders' injuries.
“You have the ability to go faster on a scooter, just like a bicycle, just like a motorcycle or a moped device,” he said. “You’re going at a greater rate of speed, so there could be more energy associated with your accident, which can cause more injury.”
Bird first rolled out its scooters in the Kansas City area in July, and Lime in September. The scooters don't come equipped with helmets, although both companies recommend that all riders wear them for safety.
Bird offers helmets to all active riders so long as they pay a shipping fee, according to the company's website. First-time Lime riders are required to complete an “in-app tutorial” on helmet safety before unlocking a scooter.
When Lime rolled out its scooters in September, a spokesman, Sam Sadle, said the company was partnering with the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority and other local groups to educate people on proper scooter usage.
“So it begins first and foremost with education, but it also is about helmets,” he said. “We encourage everyone to use a helmet when they’re riding a Lime scooter.”
A Bird spokesperson said in a statement that the company is committed to safety and improving the well-being of its riders. Bird restricts the maximum speed of its vehicles and requires riders to upload a driver’s license confirming they are 18 or older. Safety instructions can also be found on every Bird scooter.
Bird scooters in need of repair are tended to by a support team that the company says is available around the clock. Lime also has local teams to inspect and repair scooters if necessary. According to The Washington Post, the company recently added a feature enabling chargers, people who charge the scooters overnight, to take broken scooters off the street.
Injured Lime and Bird users may have little legal recourse against the companies. Riders who want to use Lime or Bird scooters must agree not to sue the companies and instead submit to binding arbitration.
Celisa Calacal is an intern at KCUR 89.3. You can reach her at @celisa_mia.