You are starting to see a few people riding around on electric bicycles and electric scooters and might think they are good ideas. They encourage people to exercise, reduce our ever-increasing road congestion, and help protect the environment, so I was interested when Fort Worth just announced that its B-Cycle bicycle sharing program will add 50 electric assisted bicycles in April.
B-Cycle had test rides available yesterday so I hopped on one at City Hall before work to check them out.
The representative from the Trek Bicycle-owned company assured me that they could not go faster than 17 mph with the electric “boost.” You have to pedal them for the motor to kick in so they are not motor scooters. As I rode, the bicycle went faster than it should have been going based on my pedaling — and that’s what worries me.
As an experienced cyclist who rides on our area roads and the Trinity Trails, I worry when I see new or young riders who look like they are about to fall over or cause other cyclists to get into a wreck.
I’ve had to handle many bicycle, motorcycle, and pedestrian cases over the past 38 years and know first-hand how the injuries can be serious, even fatal.
I can’t see how letting inexperienced or young people to ride at a pretty fast pace is a great idea. And people riding 17 miles an hour on narrow bike trails will easily overtake many of the other bike riders and all walkers, sometimes with baby strollers, children and dogs.
Especially on nice weekends, our trails can get crowded. And I see people texting while they pedal, riding down the middle of the small path, and pulling their dogs out to the side.
While I’m a huge advocate of people getting exercise and making our roads safe, no warnings are given about how e-bikes can be very dangerous.
And adding to the danger, bike-sharing companies do not provide helmets. I’ve never seen anyone wearing their own on a B-cycle. But it is obvious that helmets reduce the chance of a traumatic brain injury, the leading cause of death after a cycling crash. I don’t understand why helmets are not required by state law for all bike riders in Texas. Fort Worth requires any one younger than 18 to wear one, but there is no way to stop a child from renting an electric bike where it will be tempting to take for a spin.
I did like the electric bike’s built-in safety features, including front and rear lights that are always on, a heavy frame that is hard to move quickly (without electricity), a low center of gravity, drum brakes, and no top tube so it’s easy to get on and off quickly.
You rarely see people riding on of those big red bikes now. Perhaps the more people riding electric and regular bicycles on our streets, the fewer collisions there will be as car and truck drivers get more used to seeing them. Fort Worth, Dallas, and the other cities in North Texas are among the least bike-friendly ones in the United States.
Perhaps having “dockless stations” where riders can leave their bikes anywhere they want would increase their use and practicality. You still need to drive a car to and from the bike stations. But Dallas had a terrible experience with them last year and they are now banned. Fort Worth is expected to announce a decision on these stations early next year.
I hope that a balance can be struck between the need to use alternative means of transit and get exercise versus the increased danger. But until then, they seem like more accidents waiting to happen.
To our young people, electric scooters are a boon when you need to get around in a city without a car.
However, they are so dangerous that a class action lawsuit is underway according to the Washington Post. The suit in Los Angeles accuses the leading manufacturers of “aiding and abetting assault.”
While users and passers-by who avoid injury from these vehicles rarely notice the serious damage they can do, we in the personal injury law field see the aftermath of what electric scooters can cause.
That damage is more than just the littered sidewalks that pepper our cities. It’s a real human toll in life and limb that we see when our clients hobble into our doors, looking to get some fair compensation for what can be life-changing injuries.
Many cities have banned these electronic scooters from their sidewalks because they are not worth the risk.
The California lawsuit claims that the scooter companies have contributed to the eight plaintiffs’ injuries in several ways:
Lime claims that safety is “at the core of everything” they do, citing the fact that scooters have reduced car use, resulting in better air quality from reduced carbon emissions. Bird also references the need to address climate change.
But the article points to “uptick in severe injuries” and the testimony from physicians, mechanics, and former scooter riders that they are overly dangerous.
A Los Angeles attorney told the Dallas City Council that they are very dangerous, even though the Council agreed to allow a six month trial period.
Fort Worth’s mayor Betsy Price, a cyclist and fitness advocate, said that Fort Worth will not allow them since they were so hazardous, at least not before they are made more safe.
Several electronic scooter riders have died from injuries they incurred while riding and serious injuries are on the rise. In her recent article for USA.Streetsblog.org, Angie Schmitt points out that in Washington, D.C. alone, three e-scooter riders have died in little more than a month’s time. The author states that the e-scooter death rate is six times greater than that of the bike share system.
With Bird’s claims of more than 10 million rides and Lime’s 11.5 million, this death rate is likely to rise. Since most cities don’t allow scooters on sidewalks, riders must use the streets, most lacking designated bike lanes to keep them relatively safe.
Without a change in our laws, more bike lanes, better enforcement, or a change in attitude by electronic scooter companies, injuries and fatalities will almost certainly increase.
It’s funny how Dallas has rejected electric bikes but allowed electric scooters, but Fort Worth is taking the opposite position.
I just wrote about the surge in fatal motorcycle collisions here and worry that these new higher-speed machines will cause even more crashes.
If you or someone you know has been injured in a Fort Worth bicycle accident (i.e. bike crash) or a Dallas scooter accident, contact us for a free meeting to discuss your legal options.