The launch of a new electric scooter sharing program in New York City has raised concerns about safety issues for motorists and pedestrians. According to a report by The Verge, scooter companies Bird, Lime, and VeroRide have installed one thousand scooters per company in the East Bronx as part of a pilot program to see how micromobility fares in New York City. As the report notes, however, the city itself may not be prepared.
There are approximately 570,000 residents living in the East Bronx, granting a large test customer base to the pilot program. As the Verge notes, however, the problem is the dearth of bike lanes in the neighborhood. “There is virtually no on-street protected bike infrastructure in the East Bronx,” the Verge observes, “and the protected bike lanes that do exist (such as the Bronx River Parkway) specifically prohibit battery-powered vehicles like scooters.”
These safety concerns are heightened in light of the uptick in traffic violence that occurred over the course of the pandemic, with 761 cyclists injured by motorists in the Bronx and seven killed. A year earlier, in 2019, 495 were injured and zero killed, according to the Verge (citing data provided by the city). While the city did install 330 miles of bike lanes over the last eight years, only 130 of them are physically separated from vehicle lanes, which The Verge notes “increases the risk of cyclists and scooter riders being injured or killed by drivers.”
One transportation safety advocate told The Verge that electric scooter users may be able to enjoy safer streets if more people use the devices, although riders “will avoid scooters altogether if they don’t feel it’s safe enough to ride.” Lime, one of the electric scooter companies involved in the pilot program, held educational events to promote safe scooter usage in the Bronx, but the Verge reports that few residents attended, and city authorities “did nothing to help promote the events.” That said, authorities have issued a requirement that the scooters “include safety tutorials in their apps.”
More information on the safety considerations surrounding New York City’s electric scooter pilot program is available via the Verge.