AUSTIN (KXAN) — Scrapes, sprains, fractures, and head injuries. Emergency room doctor Nick Steinour says he sees them all following accidents involving the thousands of electric scooters zipping around Austin streets.
In a conference room filled with dozens of his medical colleagues, Steinour delivered a presentation Friday titled, “Abolish E-Scooters: These things are dangerous!” as part of the 2022 Austin Trauma & Critical Care Conference.
Steinour is the emergency department medical director and division chief of emergency services at Dell Seton Medical Center and the University of Texas.
“Many folks don’t understand the dangers that they assume when they hop on an e-scooter,” he told KXAN, calling it an increasing problem not just in Austin, but in cities across the country and the world.
“Our healthcare systems are burdened,” he continued. “Having to tell patients who thought they were just going out for a fun cruise around town, ‘Hey, guess what? Now you need surgery,’ or ‘You’re going to have a disfigurement that you may not have thought of before you jumped on.”
Steinour said his ER sees 6 to 10 patients per day coming in with injuries, mostly on weekends, and mostly at night.
“25% of those [patients] end up needing an operation,” he said. “I think [the scooters] can be deployed in a responsible way. We’re just not there.”
KXAN reached out to the three companies that locally operate the standing scooters referenced by the doctor: Bird, Lime, and LINK.
Bird provided the following statement:
“The city of Austin and Bird share a commitment to providing the safest possible micro-electro transportation options and prioritizing alternatives to gas-powered cars. Austin is one of the safest markets for Bird riders with 0.0017% of wrinkles resulting in reported injuries involving medical treatment.”
Lime said 99.99% of its rides globally are completed safely. The company also issued a statement, reading in part:
“Safety is our highest priority at Lime and we are in the middle of an ongoing safety campaign communicating with our riders about how to ride safely and park responsibly in Austin.”
On its website, LINK states it offers riders discounts on helmets.
According to the Austin Transportation Department, the three companies currently have authorized fleets totaling 11,350 standing scooters. Lime has the most at 5,850.
“The number of actual devices deployed is at the discretion of the companies,” a department spokesperson told KXAN.
On its Shared Mobility Services website, the city advises riders to stick to bike lanes when possible, though scooters are allowed on sidewalks “if done in a safe and respectful manner.”
Riders must obey the same traffic laws as motorists, unless directed otherwise by police or traffic signals, or official signage.
The city also recommends adults wear helmets when on scooters (they are required for those younger than 18) and advises against riding “under the influence of intoxicants.”