LIVING ON THE EDGE: Will CDC investigation of scooter safety advise against high-heel scooting?

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is investigating e-scooter crashes and injuries, CNN reports, in response to a request from the city of Austin, Texas. The story naturally includes harrowing tales of a University of Texas shortstop who hit a pothole tore his Achilles tendon, a CEO nonprofit who hit a rock and ended up with a concussion and a broken rib, and so on.

Austin has in the neighborhood of 14,000 e-scooters, operated by ten different companies. CNN reports:

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The scooter study was launched in December when three CDC epidemiologists spent two weeks in Austin reviewing incidents and scooter-related injuries during a 60-day period from September to November. They began contacting the 258 individuals identified through EMS calls or who visited emergency rooms with a scooter-related injury. Findings from this study will likely be released in March and could have far-reaching effects as cities across the country grapple with reports of injuries from these e-scooters.

“We don’t know if there’s something unique about Austin or the population there that may be different from other parts of the United States or globally,” said Eric Pevzner, chief of the Atlanta-based CDC Epidemic Intelligence Service, which is conducting the probe. “The rate of scooter injuries in Austin may be consistent with what’s being noticed in other places, or it may be much higher.”

Dozens of e-scooters came to Little Rock in January when the San Francisco-based company Lime agreed to a six-month pilot project in the River Market, with plans to bring up to 500 scooters to downtown Little Rock.  The scooters cost $1 to unlock with an app and 15 cents per minute of riding thereafter.

There have been major hiccups along the way, including citizen complaints and
safety concerns, and on Jan. 30, city attorney Tom Carpenter sent a letter to Lime saying that it would be terminating its deal with the company after the six-month pilot period ends for not addressing the city’s safety concerns. However, Mayor Frank Scott stated that the city will consider proposals from other e-scooter companies — and Lime has continued to engage with the city in the hopes of getting another crack.

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Little Rock is unique in being the only Lime market where the scooters are forbidden on the street under city law (the state legislature has shown some interest in creating state-level scooter regulations this session, which would allow street use but allow some local regulation).

Lime is in Austin, too (here’s a recent story about an Austin man suing the company over an alleged scooter malfunction).

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More from CNN:

The Austin study will help develop a baseline for comparison. So far, what’s believed to be the first published study examining scooter injuries was released in January in JAMA Network Open, a peer-reviewed medical journal. UCLA researchers studied 249 patients (228 scooter riders and 21 pedestrians) treated at two emergency departments over a year’s time. Head injuries and fractures were the most common diagnosis. Among scooter riders, 80 percent were injured in a fall, 11 percent collided with an object, and almost 9 percent were hit by a moving vehicle or object. For almost 5 percent of patients, intoxication was a factor. Just 4 percent of riders wore a helmet.

For a local take on the do’s and don’ts of scooters, check out the recent Arkansas Times Big Picture feature.