SANTA MONICA (CBSLA) – From the Valley to the Westside, electric scooters are hard to miss. While they are no doubt an eco-friendly and fun way to travel, lawsuits against scooter companies are starting to pileup.
It’s a growing trend on Instagram: Accounts devoted to trashing electric scooters and spotlighting their mishaps.
While accounts like Scooters Behaving Badly and Bird Graveyard may have been created for kicks, not everyone is laughing.
“It was literally like two or three seconds – I was down,” Holly Bittinger said.
The West Los Angeles resident is recovering from a shattered wrist.
“Its very hard,” Bianca McMahan said.
McMahan, of West Hollywood, wound up in the emergency room with a fractured ankle, three plates and numerous screws
“I don’t think people realize how potentially dangerous these scooters are,” Catherine Lerer said.
Lerer is an attorney in Santa Monica. Since April, calls from scooter accident victims have flooded her office.
“I’ve been contacted by 200 or 300 injury victims so far. We’ve taken on maybe 60 or 70 cases,” she said.
Bittinger and McMahan are among Lerer’s clients who have filed lawsuits against scooter companies Bird and Lime. The suits allege, among other things, gross negligence.
“They’re not well maintained, they’re breaking down. The most common call we get is when a rider is injured because a throttle sticks,” Lerer said.
Bittinger was riding a bird scooter just north of Santa Monica Boulevard in August when her throttle got stuck in the downward position.
“I was futzing with the throttle trying to unstick it,” Bittinger said.
While the scooter was at full speed, Bittinger went down.
“Looked up and saw my wrist dangling from my arm and knew that it was broken,” she said.
McMahan and her husband were riding Lime scooters on Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica when she got hurt.
“They were in the bike lane. All of a sudden, their scooters slow down,” Lerer said.
A short distance later, the attorney said the couple’s scooters speed up.
“Her husband lost control, clipped her and she went down and was injured,” she said.
The pair had entered a zone that was geo-fenced. Some cities require scooter companies to slow down in pedestrian-heavy areas like the one McMahan and her husband were riding in. The scooters then speed up automatically when they left the zone.
McMahan said she and her husband had no warning of the changing speeds, and there aren’t any signs posted.
“They got a text message from the company saying you just entered a reduced-speed zone. But, you know, their cell phones are in their pocket,” Lerer said. “So they didn’t realize they they had entered and were coming out of the zone until after the crash when they looked at their phone.”
The companies have denied liability.
Lime’s user agreement is 262 screen shots long, and Bird’s is 58 screen shots. Language included in the agreements states riders assume responsibility for all “risks, dangers and hazards.”
“I signed a user agreement,” Bittinger said. “While I assumed there was some risk, what I was not prepared for was the equipment failing on me.
Bittinger said she misses being able to do the yoga she loves. For now, her hands can’t handle it.
McMahan wonders whether she’ll ever be able to navigate stairs with ease, or get back to her hobbies of biking and hiking.
“Changed my life, yeah,” McMahan said.
For now, demand for the scooters remains high.
But as more miles are logged and the injuries mount, Lerer said, “The calls keep coming.”
Full text of the statement from Lime:
“At Lime, the safety of our riders and the community is our number one priority. That’s why every day we’re innovating on technology, infrastructure and education to set the standard for micromobility safety.
Lime has recently led several safety initiatives, including:
- The launch of the Lime Gen 3 scooter with enhanced safety features, including upgraded wheels, better suspension, additional braking and improved balance.
- Global leader protecting each ride with $1 million in liability insurance.
- Investing more than $3 million in our Respect the Ride campaign to educate riders about safety and responsible riding.
- 250,000 free helmets distributed to riders across the globe.
- First of its kind Safety Brand Ambassador Program to educate riders on safety.
- Dedicated Customer Support and Trust, Education and Safety teams available to riders 24/7.
- Convenors of an industry-wide Education and Safety Summit on micromobility.
We’re also working with local governments around the world to support infrastructure for shared scooters and bikes. It’s clear consumers want micromobility infrastructure too; 52.2% of Lime riders ranked a protected bike lane as their number one choice for riding. We believe continued government investment in protected bike lanes and paths is critical.
The rapid adoption of micromobility across the U.S. and across the globe demonstrates that the future of transportation is clean, efficient and safe. We look forward to working with the industry, medical community and regulators to create a meaningful ecosystem for this new and evolving technology.”
Full text of statement from Bird:
“Bird is committed to partnering with cities to ensure that the community, and its visitors, safely embrace our affordable, environmentally friendly transportation option. We strive to improve and enhance the well-being of our riders and communities through concrete action, including: requiring riders to upload a driver’s license and confirm they are 18 or older, providing an in-app tutorial on how to ride a Bird and how to park it, and posting clear safety instructions on each Bird. Additionally, Bird recently formed the Global Safety Advisory Board, which will create, advise, and implement global programs, campaigns, and products to improve the safety of those riding Birds and other e-scooters.
We strongly encourage all riders to wear helmets. To help ensure all people have equal access to helmets, we have given away more than 65,000 free helmets.
We strongly recommend reporting any damaged scooters or incidents that Bird scooters are involved in, as we have a support team dedicated to safety that is available around the clock to address questions and reports we receive. Bird provides a number of ways for people to reach us including by email Hello@bird.co, through our in-app messaging feature, and by phone.