An orthopedic surgeon’s take on the e-scooter craze


A number of major cities have seen shared e-scooters, or electrical scooters, take over their streets. It’s certainly popular with the riders, but it is creating waves with a lot of critics as well. In Portland, Oregon, there are four companies trialing the scooters over a several-month period.  Driving around my city, I find that we are being inundated with scooters being used on the sidewalk, on the streets, in bike lanes.

Some of the 75 plus cities that have tried to adopt this new concept of convenient transportation have already kicked these companies out, and I’m curious what will occur here in Portland.

So what about the orthopedic surgeon’s take on the e-scooter craze?

When I first saw these people zipping down the street on these motorized scooters, my first thought was, “Why is no one wearing any protective gear?” We wear helmets when we ride bikes; a wise roller blader wears knee pads, wrist guards, elbow pads with helmet. Why are these scooters exempt? And even if it’s not a rule; it is simply common sense. Anything that makes you go faster than your own feet can carry you should have some kind of protective gear.

I wondered to myself, “How long before I see an e-scooter aficionado in my clinic?” The answer is … not long! Just this week alone, I’ve had two e-scooter injuries, one of which was a fracture that was significant enough to warrant surgery. And there was no protective gear involved. These injuries would have been avoidable with wrist and elbow guards.

Pedestrians are at risk too. Imagine walking out of a store, to be mowed down by a scooter that can top 15 to 20 mph.  There should be a designated place for these scooters to be enjoyed. Many people feel that the bike lane is probably the best place — and I agree. That e-scooters are on the sidewalk suggests two things. One, that no guidelines have been established on where these should be ridden. Two, that perhaps the infrastructure for bikes, scooters, rollerbladers, etc., could be improved upon. We certainly could take a hint from cities like Vancouver, BC, where bike lanes abound.

I do feel e-scooters, in addition to being a little adrenaline thrill, are also potentially a good solution as an alternative mode of transportation. However, this trial is making it clear that there needs to be a designated place for these to be ridden and that a little more awareness of safety equipment is necessary.

And last, what effect does being able to haphazardly drop off a scooter anywhere have? For one thing, this is yet another tripping hazard for a pedestrian. Some may not take this one seriously — but I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve treated fractures, of the hip, knee, ankle, wrist, elbow and beyond, for so-called “simple” trip and falls.

And secondly, it just looks sloppy. We have many Nike Biketown bikes that function similarly in that you pay to use by the minute and can return back to any of a number of corrals around town. However, the difference is that there are corrals, and once a bike is returned, they line up neatly like a bright orange industrial sculpture — as opposed to abandoned e-scooters just scattered about.

I admit, these e-scooters look zippy and fun, and I’ll probably try it out too. However, remember these tips for safe e-scooting:

  • Use common sense and common courtesy
  • Share the road and be aware of vehicles, cyclists and other e-scooters
  • Use appropriate safety equipment (helmet for your noggin, and wrist/elbow/knee guards to stay away from me!)

We will see where the remaining months take us here in Portland and whether these e-scooters are here to stay.  But for now, have fun scooting about but do it safely!

Nancy Yen Shipley is an orthopedic surgeon and can be reached at her self-titled site, NancyMD and on Twitter @_nancymd and Instagram @_nancymd.

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