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E-scooter accidents on the rise, helmet policies are inconsistent



Woman Bird electric scooterLUCY

  • Helmets are required by most startups to ride their
    . Still, emergency rooms are being flooded
    with injured riders.
  • On Instagram, startups Lime and
    don’t appear to be practicing what they preach when it comes to
    safety, despite commitments to give out free helmets. 
  • Bird was a
    vocal supporter of a new California law
    which will nix the
    helmet requirement for scooter riders on January 1. 

Gruesome injuries from riding e-scooters
are popping up left and right across the country.

In Austin alone, one emergency room is seeing 10 injuries per day
from scooters, the hospital’s ER director told CNET. The site estimates injury rates could
be in the thousands, with examples of broken arms, major head
injuries, and extensive bruising — with examples from doctors in
San Francisco and Denver as well.

Safety is the top
of every
scooter company
, their websites and promotional materials are
quick to point out. The user agreements of Lime and Bird, for
example, even specifically mention the helmet requirement and
have decals on the scooters remind riders. 

But while Lime was busy distributing 250,000 helmets as part of
its “respect the ride” campaign, its marketing efforts were
telling a very different story. On Instagram, photos of helmets
are interspersed with photos of riding in direct contradiction of
the pledge, most notably without helmets.

Lime isn’t the only company. Bird, whose scooters do say on the
deck that a helmet is required, hasn’t shown a rider with a
helmet on its Instagram page since Nov. 6 — and has posted more
than a dozen photos since. (Bird has also distributed about
50,000 helmets, it told CNET)

Bird instagram no helmets
No helmets to be seen here.
Bird via Instagram

Jon Patrick Allem, a research scientist at the University of
Southern California, went more in-depth with his analysis.
According to his findings, 69% of Bird’s more than 300 Instagram
posts show a person on a scooter, and only 6.2% of those showed any protective gear.

Neither Lime nor Bird responded to requests for comment from
Business Insider.

Helmets have been a pivotal point in the ongoing tussle between
some cities and scooter companies. Bird was a major supporter of
a new California law which, when it takes effect in
, will repeal a helmet requirement for
e-scooter riders, but allows local municipalities to pass
stricter laws. Santa Monica, for instance, has instituted a speed
limit on its boardwalk which Lime was able to program into its

Los Angeles in September approved a bill requiring scooter
companies to notify riders of helmet requirements, and sets a cap
on the number of scooters that may be deployed, according to

“With the introduction of any new consumer product, you will not
see everybody follow the rules,” Kyle Lui, a principal at Lime
investor at the $4 billion venture capital firm DCM Ventures,
said in an interview with Business Insider.

“The law in the vast majority of states is that you need to wear
a seat belt when you’re in the car and yet you still see people
not doing that. A lot of accidents you see — whether auto, bike,
or scooter related — some are wrong place wrong time, and some
are due to unsafe practices. That’s one of the reasons why
companies like Lime need to have a local presence to easily
distribute things like helmets.”

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