Two women riding electric scooters known as “Birds” in downtown Nashville were seriously injured in a hit-and-run accident last month. Also last month, a Bird rider in Santa Monica, California, crashed into a car and was taken to the hospital with head trauma.
Meet the Bird, the electric scooter that is causing accidents in the streets of major cities around the country. The Bird has landed in metropolitan areas such as Atlanta, Denver, Los Angeles, and most recently, Nashville.
What exactly is a Bird?
Companies including Bird, Spin and Lime have been rolling out ride sharing electric scooter services in cities around the country, with one billing itself as the “Uber of electric scooters.” The ride sharing service Bird launched in Nashville in early May.
The company’s scooters, called Birds, can travel up to 15 miles per hour, and can travel approximately 15 miles on a single charge. It costs $1 plus 15 cents per minute to ride a Bird.
Birds can be found in the morning in their designated pickup areas called “nests,” and then can be found wherever a rider leaves one throughout the day.
Are Birds safe?
Birds can cause safety issues for both users and pedestrians, and many see them as an accident waiting to happen. Just like bicyclists and pedestrians, an individual on a Bird scooter that is hit by a motor vehicle can sustain major injuries.
In addition, Bird users often do not wear helmets (although the company recommends it), which can lead to serious trauma in the case of an accident, as noted above.
Bird users are often seen cruising not just on the side of the road, but also down pedestrian-filled sidewalks. Pedestrians are not accustomed to scooters on sidewalks and may accidentally walk into the path of one. Careless users may unintentionally hit a pedestrian.
It’s often not clear to riders and pedestrian where electric scooters are supposed to travel – the road, a bicycle lane, maybe even the sidewalk?
And scooters, when parked haphazardly, can present a tripping hazard.
Bird parking becomes a problem
Birds do not require a dedicated dock during the day, so riders can basically leave them anywhere in the city. Which unfortunately means that Birds are being left in the middle of sidewalks, obstructing entrances to businesses and stores, and blocking driveways.
In Nashville alone, over 400 Bird scooters that were left in public rights of way have been impounded.
Who faces liability in an accident with a Bird?
This is still an evolving area of the law, but Bird, and possibly the Bird user, may be held liable for damages and injuries caused by the scooter’s use – or misuse.
Bird’s user agreement requires a user to bring the scooter back in the same condition it left in, so any damages to the scooter will be the responsibility of the user.
Because Bird doesn’t require a rider to return the scooter to a dedicated location, Birds are often left haphazardly on sidewalks and streets – causing a potential tripping hazard.
And because Bird can track their scooters via GPS, they know where their scooters are located – but typically don’t have a dedicated response team removing the scooters from hazardous locations.
Bird has suspended operations – for now
Nashville Metro issued a cease-and-desist letter to Bird shortly after its launch, and the company has agreed to suspend operations in Nashville until further regulations are put in place. The city is examining ways to rein in electric scooter companies including obtaining a permit in order to operate, capping the number of scooters allowed in the city, and tougher scooter operating rules.