Rolling out changes: Local push to make popular e-scooters safer

Rolling out changes: Local push to make popular e-scooters safer

BROOKLINE, Mass. — Boston 25 News is breaking down the new statistics on the e-scooter pilot program in Brookline, including crashes, and looking at what the town is doing to improve safety.

It's been nearly six months since Brookline launched the first electric scooter pilot program in Massachusetts. Just after the launch, Boston 25 News anchor Chris Flanagan took an in-depth look at the number of injuries linked to scooters in other big cities.  Now he’s looking at the safety numbers being reported here.

>> As e-scooters roll into Massachusetts, serious injuries soar nationwide

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"We've had some real surprises. Usage has far exceeded my expectations,"  said Heather Hamilton, Brookline Select Board member.

Hamilton said she's amazed by how many riders have jumped on an e-scooter since the pilot program first launched in April.  According to the Brookline's Transportation Division of the Department of Public Works, there have been more than 127,000 rides, covering 153,000 miles. 18,500 unique riders have hopped on an e-scooter.  (A unique rider is defined as not the same people riding the scooters over and over again.)  The average trip is one mile, lasting nine minutes.

"There's demand here for an alternative to driving yourself or being driven in an Uber or a Lyft or walking long distances and cutting that trip time in half,"  Hamilton said.

Two California companies, Lime and Bird, have deployed 400 e-scooters in Brookline.  A third company, Spin, added a few dozen more in August.  As the pilot program launched, injuries were a top concern in the wake of crash stats from other states.  There was even a crash on the day of the scooter debut in Brookline.  But Brookline Police only report six crashes with injuries since the launch.  Still, with 517 safety stops of e-scooter users, officers have been busy.

"I'm kind of waiting for a fatality, when someone gets hit by a car. I feel like that's the inevitable and that will maybe wake people up. I'm sorry to say,"  one Brookline resident told Boston 25 News.

The dock-less e-scooters are powered by an electric motor.  In Brookline, the companies are required to cap the maximum speed at 15 miles per hour.  The town now has road signs out reminding riders to stay on the street, not the sidewalk, and that helmets are required.  But many riders appear to be ignoring both regulations.

"I think maybe the rules aren't clear and I think they've been a little big rogue,"  said another Brookline resident.

Another complaint is people dumping the scooters everywhere.  Brookline recently enacted geo-fencing. That limits where a scooter can be left.  Riders must also be 18 years old to rent a scooter.  Critics say teenagers are consistently breaking the law. The Town of Brookline has reached out to parents of school-aged children to remind them of that rule.

"We were finding that some parents were allowing their child to use their ID or they just had a work around in order to unlock the device, so the child could use it.  That’s not what we really wanted for this pilot at this point,"  Hamilton said.

Scooters started rolling in Salem, Mass. in July as well. Brookline's pilot program runs through November 15. Then the town will decide if e-scooters will remain on their roads permanently.