By JASON CHUNG
While spending time in Austin, TX over the holiday break, I finally took the plunge and tried out an electric scooter. Through my Uber app, my phone’s GPS located a suitable vehicle, made me agree to an entirely too long User Agreement and charged my VISA $1.00 for the first five minutes (and $0.15/minute after that).
It was fun. It was economical. It solved my dilemma of how to get around relatively expediently without a car. It was also a potential death trap.
With the capability of reaching up to 20 mph and provided without training, helmets or health insurance, electric scooter companies appear comfortable extolling the virtues of their “disruption” regardless of potential negative health and safety externalities. And it’s not as if these negative effects are merely speculation – though statistical injury data is still sparse given the newness of this type of transportation service, interviews with emergency room physicians show that “[i]njuries are coming fast and furious” with injuries ranging from broken bones, lacerations, blunt head trauma and even death.
The conduct of electric scooter companies betrays the elitist singlemindedness of some of the tech community. When faced with legitimate public health and safety concerns, electric scooter companies haven’t taken a step back and re-examined their approach. Instead, relying on the tried and true appeal to caveat emptor or “buyer beware”, electric scooter companies appear content to download public health and safety risks to other actors, such as their customers, health systems and governments, as long as they keep getting funding and expanding.