Bicycle sharing systems have become a customary sight during the summer months in the city. Now, the next trend, electric scooters. Beginning June 15, 2019, electric scooters were made available in certain areas of Chicago. But after four months, the City of Chicago decided to stop the program.
At first glance, electric scooters seemed like a great idea. A fun and easy way to get from one place to another—all while enjoying some of Chicago’s beautiful sights. One of the main goals of the program was to increase access to viable alternative transportation for individuals who live, visit or commute to areas that do not have much public transportation. It seems to have done just that. The Chicago Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection noted that over 772,000 trips were taken in this four-month period of time. And, according to Lime, (one of the scooter companies) many of the rides began and ended in the same area.
However, there were certainty downsides to this program too. First, no license was necessary to ride an electric scooter. That means, anyone over the age of 18 and has the app, could ride an electric scooter in Chicago. However, there was no way of telling who actually got on a scooter. Many times, kids rode scooters when they were intended for those over the age of 18. Second, scooters ended up outside the designated areas and the scooters were left in random areas along sidewalks.
Third, electric scooter riders can only ride on the street or in the bike lane; not on the sidewalk. That means the electric scooter riders are sharing the streets with all of the other cars, buses, bicycles, and, of course, potholes. While hospitals have not publicly released injury reports, many Chicago hospitals are reporting dozens of scooter related emergency room visits.
So, what happens if you are injured while riding an electric scooter or are injured by someone riding an electric scooter? This leads us to a legal grey area. The electric scooter companies place the liability for injury on the electric scooter user. Essentially saying, if it is the user’s fault, then that user is liable. But most of these legal questions have not yet been sorted out. Only time will tell if and how Illinois law may change and adapt to these new modes of transportation.