At a recent City Hall meeting, George Chidi sported a broken arm as he approached the microphone during public comment. He was injured on a sidewalk curb while riding an e-scooter.
Some parts of Atlanta are experiencing scooter glut. Just this week, Uber and Lyft launched e-scooters and joined Bird and Lime on city sidewalks.
Doctors say since May, when these dockless rides appeared, they’ve been seeing injuries because of them. But there’s no hard data.
“We’re seeing minor injuries such as cuts, bruises and abrasions just from a normal fall,” said Dr. Sulieman Wazeerud-Din, an ER doctor at the Atlanta Medical Center.
He also sees more serious injuries –those similar to car or motorcycle accidents.
“What we call subdural bleeds — that means bleeding in the brain, facial fractures,” he said.
And even lacerations of the spleen. But his hospital does not keep track of scooter injuries.
“We don’t track them in the sense of e-scooter accidents,” he says. “I think we can do better.”
Officials at Grady Hospital say they now see about 25 injuries per month from scooter accidents.
For Wazeerud-Din at Atlanta Medical Center, he said there’s one thing all the injuries have in common.
“Every patient that I’ve taken care of hasn’t had a helmet. I’ve never treated a patient who was wearing a helmet.”
Scooter companies tell riders to wear a helmet, but there’s no penalties if they don’t.
Nima Daivari, is with the scooter company Lime in Atlanta.
“We do not have any penalties for our riders at this time,” says Daivari. “It’s a little complicated since helmet laws vary from market to market.”
Lime is one of the e-scooter operators people see around the city. The company launched in Atlanta in late June. Since then, residents have tallied 85,000 rides.
Daivari says while riders aren’t required to wear helmets, there’s mandatory onboarding when riders first download the app. Part of that orientation is asking riders to wear a helmet.
Though no one’s tracking injuries or helmet use in Atlanta, there is a city that’s starting to.
Austin, Texas has about 11,000 scooters on its roads. Austin Public Health has partnered with the Atlanta-based Center for Disease Control for an epidemiological study on dockless scooters.
“Was the gravel road a factor in the accident, was speed a factor, was going down hill a factor, what type of footwear were you wearing,” says Jeff Taylor, an epidemiologist at Austin Public Health.
On top of knowing if riders were wearing helmets, Taylor says there’s other info that’s vital for public health officials and lawmakers to make decisions on regulating the dockless devices. He says the data may also be significant to scooter companies.
“The company may use this data to say well we can make changes to our scooters to make them safer” Taylor says. “Again, if they know what are the factors that contribute to the injuries.”
The Atlanta City Council is expected to vote on scooter regulations in January. But tracking injuries involving scooters is not part of their current plan.