Staying Safe on E-Bikes and E-Scooters in Phoenix
Phoenix is a driving city. It was designed for driving, and anyone who’s spent more than a few minutes out of doors in the late Spring (let alone the summer) is usually looking to get back indoors pretty fast.
But as anyone who’s driven here knows, traffic can be a bit tough, and there is something to be said for leaving the car at home when you can: it’s better for your health, and it’s good for air quality, too. Back in 2019, Phoenix launched its Active Transportation System which was developed to encourage people to consider alternative ways to get around the city rather than using a car. This included options like bicycling or skateboarding – two activities that can get your body moving while also keeping you a bit cooler than simply walking would.
Navigating a city built for drivers when you’re not in a car can be a challenge. But there are ways you can help keep yourself safe.
- Familiarize yourself with the laws. Learn where you can ride, and stick to those areas. Non-motorized skateboards aren’t allowed in certain parks or on light-rail station platforms, and the rules of motorized skateboards are even more specific. Bicycles are allowed on sidewalks in most cities (but not all), but e-bikes are not and e-scooters are not; you are required to stick to bike lanes when they’re available.
- Always wear a helmet. No matter how old you are or what type of transportation you’re using, the data is clear: helmets can reduce the risk and severity of head trauma and brain injury. While helmets don’t eliminate the risk entirely, they could potentially save your life. And saving your brain is pretty darn important, too!
- Make yourself visible, especially at night. Use a headlight, wear reflective clothing, and use your turn signals (if your device has them) to make yourself stand out. When possible, try to make eye contact with the drivers, riders, and pedestrians around you.
- Check the weather. Certain weather conditions like fog or rain are dangerous for drivers; they can be more dangerous for people on skateboards or bikes. Wind can be risky, too; it’s not impossible for a rider to be pushed around by a gust of wind.
- Be mindful of where you park. Leaving a skateboard, bike, or scooter in the middle of the sidewalk poses a danger to others who are using that sidewalk. Make sure to lock your scooter or bike to an appropriate (and legal) place and carry your skateboard with you when you stop riding.
- Don’t let your children ride scooters or e-bikes. You have to be at least 18 years old to use these devices in Phoenix.
Following basic tips like these can reduce your risk of a serious injury.
How often do people get hurt on e-bikes and e-scooters?
E-bikes and e-scooters are “micromobility” devices, and they can be found all over Arizona. But it’s taken a while for the laws and ordinances to catch up with the ways people use them. The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (USCPSC) published a study which found that there was a spike in emergency room-treated injuries from 2017-2021 in accidents that involved motorized scooters, bikes, and hoverboards. This spike is likely due to both consumers purchasing their own and cities offering convenient rentals.
Injuries rose 127% with over 77,200 injuries and 129 fatalities over the four-year period. Rented electric scooters specifically accounted for 17,400 of the reported injuries. The leading cause of death associated with scooters was motor vehicle crashes, and these accounted for 49 of the total deaths.
Electric bikes are not as common and so did not have such devastating numbers, but they did account for 11% of all micromobility injuries and had 53 reported fatalities.
These tragic accidents happen in Phoenix, too
Residents of Phoenix are not immune to these types of accidents involving micromobility devices, either. In late December, a 55-year-old man was driving a motorized scooter when he swerved into the other lane of oncoming traffic near 2nd Street and Glendale Avenue. The rider wound up striking a vehicle head-on and was rushed to the hospital with critical injuries where he was later pronounced deceased.
Electric scooters may be more dangerous than bicycles
The USCPSC study found that 48% of e-scooter riders were not wearing a helmet at the time of their accident, and there were an estimated 42,000 riders treated in the emergency room for injuries. While the study does not detail the severity of their injuries, it is probable that a large number sustained significant head trauma.
Further, while cities are attempting to make the roads safer by creating more and wider bike lanes for e-bikes and scooters (as well as traditional bicycles) to travel on, riders are not always utilizing them. It could be because they are unaware that these bike lanes are for more than just traditional bicycles. This also puts pedestrians, like these ones surveyed, at great risk. Riding at fast speeds on the sidewalk is dangerous and it can be difficult to quickly maneuver around the people walking on them. With a lack of signage and instruction, offering micromobility device rentals creates more and more accidents just waiting to happen.
Phoenix’s Micromobility Program launched in January 2023
Phoenix recently launched its Micromobility Program as a subset to the Active Transportation System. City officials hoped that as people got used to it, they would always opt for these alternative methods of getting places.
During its trial run, the micromobility program in Phoenix had a limited geofenced area where vehicles could operate. But once the trial run was over and the city officially approved the program, the geofenced area was expanded and more electric scooter and bike rentals were brought in. Originally knowing that these electric transportation devices were going to be operating in one small area, it probably was easier for pedestrians to either avoid or stay on high alert in the area and for operators to only take shorter rides. Now, we need to see how it goes.
NOTE: This isn’t the only big change in Phoenix. The city also added new bike lanes and buffers to existing lanes over the past few years to try to reduce the risk of bike accidents. Since 2009, they’ve been installing HAWK (High Intensity Activated CrossWalK) pedestrian signals to help people cross the road more safely. But the fact remains that bike and pedestrian accidents are still happening here, so there is always room for improvement.
Renting e-bikes and e-scooters as part of Phoenix’s Micromobility Program seems like fun. However, handing over these alternative transportation devices to riders who may not be so familiar with them can be dangerous. With little information or instruction, both the rider and nearby pedestrians can get seriously injured if there is a crash. And if a vehicle is involved, the person on the electric bike or scooter has little-to-no physical protection. The injuries that can be sustained may be life-threatening.
If you were injured in an accident involving an electric bike or scooter, contact the attorneys at Plattner Verderame, P.C. We will help you fight for all the pain and suffering you have experienced so you can focus on recovering. Call our office in Phoenix or Tempe or fill out our contact form to schedule a free consultation.
Nick is a member of the State Bar of Arizona, the Arizona Association for Justice (formerly the Arizona Trial Lawyers Association) and the American Association for Justice (AAJ). He currently serves on the AAJ’s Political Action Task Force and its Oversight Committee, and on the Board of Governors for Revitalization in Arizona.
Read more about Nick Verderame