Electric Scooters make their debut on Chicago’s roadways

By Elizabeth Kaveny, Managing Partner, Kaveny & Kroll

Like it or not, electric scooters will be joining the ranks of cars, trucks, motorcycles, bicycles and the occasional pedestrian, on the streets of various Chicago neighborhoods beginning June 15th.. The pilot program was put into motion with the hopes that it will offer Chicagoans a greener and economically efficient means of transportation.  As a personal injury attorney, since the scooters don’t come with helmets or training, they do come with bright red safety flags.

In the last five months, there have already been five shared scooter deaths in the United States. A recent UCLA study found that, in the case of electric scooter crashes, 40% of emergency room visits are due to head injuries.  Yet, while the City of Chicago will encourage scooter riders to wear helmets, they are not required – or supplied. This is particularly concerning considering that riders these are as young as eighteen-years-old, while sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds can also ride scooters with the consent of a parent or guardian.

Another area of concern is the education, or lack thereof, scooter riders actually will be provided. Many scooter riders are first time users, and this pilot program only suggests prior training, but does not require any training, permit, license or instruction.  

The greatest unknown yet to be seen is whether scooters will peacefully coexist in city neighborhoods with cars, bikes, potholes, and a scarcity of designated bike/scooter lanes.

On a more positive note, there are some rules which may at least “scoot” in the right direction. To begin, scooter speeds would be restricted to fifteen miles per hour. The city would also prohibit sidewalk-riding of scooters and after a scooter is used, it must be parked upright and not clutter sidewalks or other areas. In fact, the scooter user would be required to take a picture of the scooter correctly parked.  Scooters are not be used between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. Hopefully, this will limit, but not totally eliminate, the use of intoxicated drivers on scooters.

While scooters can be a handy and environmentally friendly way to make short trips, without proper protection, education and limitations, the use of scooters in our city could be fraught with countless injuries and potential litigation. We have seen, firsthand, some of the tragic results with Divvy bicycles and motor vehicles trying to share a lane in our city. Adding another motorized vehicle to the roadways, in an already congested city without adequate infrastructure, could be a recipe for disaster.