The idea was great in theory and then reality set in and ruined the party. This, in a nutshell, sums up the dreams and disappointments of many people who bought e-scooters. They hoped that in a small way they could improve the world, enjoy the convenience of traveling any time, and have fun in the process. Unfortunately, even the best of intentions can miss their mark.
It’s easy to get the impression that e-scooters are a very modern concept, but they’re not. Actually, their ancestry can be traced back to 1895 when the first patents for these vehicles were filed. But it wasn’t until about two decades ago that sales took off, thanks in large part to improvements in battery technology. And they’ve been increasing steadily since then in the U.S. and around the world.
E-scooters, along with e-bikes and related products, seemed like the perfect answer to many modern urban problems. They’re fun to use, easy to maneuver, and use no gas. And they enable people with arthritis and other health problems to be more active, do errands, and enjoy the outdoors.
Unlike cars, vans, SUVs and buses, they emit no greenhouse gases and create no noise pollution. Moreover, since they’re inexpensive, most people can afford to purchase one.
For tens of millions of people, these benefits are not just a winning combination but an unbeatable one. Furthermore, cities like New York, which have to deal with traffic nightmares every day and very costly road repair bills, are encouraging their use by dedicating more lanes on city streets to them - lanes that come at the expense of motorists.
Around The World
As a result, it should be no surprise that e-scooters have caught on. Here’s an example of just how much so: In mid-2017, bike and e-scooter firm Lyme came on the scene. By April 2019 - less than two years later - its e-scooters and e-bikes had traveled the equivalent of circling the world 2,000 times. And this statistic is from just one rental company.
Sales and rentals of e-scooters, e-bikes and mopeds continue to increase, not just in the U.S. but in Europe and Asia as well. In China there are already more than 300 million motorized two-wheel vehicles on the roads.
And sales are also growing quickly in India, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, and other Asian markets. China is the world’s leading user and producer of e-scooters.
And Now For The Rest Of The Story
An article by Eric Worrall, appearing in Wattsupwiththat.com, leads us to some very different data: He maintains this mode of transportation can be hazardous to people who use it and not as good for the climate as many believe. Here are some scary statistics cited in that article:
There has been a total of nearly 40,000 e-scooter injuries in the U.S. between 2014-2018 according to a study published in the prestigious journal JAMA Surgery, some of them life-threatening.
There were 4,582 injuries in 2014, and by 2018, this number had skyrocketed to 14,651- an increase of 222 percent in a four-year period.
The number of hospital admissions from e-scooter accidents escalated to nearly 3,300, a gain of 365 percent during the same four-year period. (Data for these statistics was compiled by the National Electronic Injury System, a project led by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission).
Of the users who were injured and required hospitalization, about two thirds were male and 98 percent had not been wearing a helmet. Almost half were legally drunk, and medical tests showed that use of illegal substances among them was common. Significant injuries including brain hemorrhages and fractures requiring surgery were present in over half (51 percent) of the patients.
Some of these injuries were caused by riders going through lights, and riding between parked cars and moving traffic. Because e-scooters are very quiet, pedestrians crossing streets sometimes are not aware of them. And riders have also been hurt by careless motorists and truckers.
Fair Weather Friends
In addition to these dangers, there are other disappointing data. E-scooters (and related products) are also not as climate friendly as many believe. True, while most cars emit much more pollution, there are more green options available such as conventional bikes, walking and, even certain forms of public transportation.
A study done by North Carolina State University states that, “Riders tend to think they’re making the right move by hopping on a scooter that’s electric and thus carbon-free, but what they don’t see are all of the emissions that are produced by the manufacturing, transportation, maintenance, and upkeep of scooters...Ultimately the claim that e-scooter riding is the greenest option available is just not true.”
So, while there are obvious benefits to using e-scooters, there are also drawbacks. The purchases people make often are based more on emotions and wanting to be part of a fad rather than on statistics and safety. This being the base, expect to see a lot more e-scooters in your neighborhood in the coming years. The bottom line: keep checking those rear- and side-view mirrors frequently.