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Scooters are sending more people to the hospital; Seattle still doesn't have them

A broken Lime electric scooter lays on a sidewalk in Washington, D.C.
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CQ-Roll Call,Inc.

In the Puget Sound region, you can ride an electric scooter in Tacoma, Everett, Bothell, and Redmond, but not in Seattle ... yet.

Electric scooters are sending more people to the hospital across the country, according to new research in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Safety concerns have kept scooter rentals out of Seattle, but by spring, you may be able to hop on a shared scooter if all goes according to the Seattle Department of Transportation’s plans.

SDOT is figuring out a lot of things first, like educating first-time scooter riders, who are at high risk for injury, spokesperson Ethan Bergerson said.

“To make sure people understand, ‘This is different than riding a bicycle, here’s some safety tips,’ so that people don’t get caught by surprise.”

The city will also require scooter share companies have a plan to distribute helmets.

The new nationwide research published Wednesday shows jumps in the rate of injuries and hospitalizations from electric scooters from 2017 to 2018.

  • Injury incidents went up by 222% -- from 6 to 19 per 100,000 people.
  • Hospitalizations increased by more than 365%.

SDOT is looking to limit where scooters can travel as another way to keep people safe, Bergerson said.

“We can actually use this technology to do something called geofencing, which basically means making sure the scooters are only able to operate in certain locations.”

SDOT is still determining which exact locations will be off limits within the city. Before the scooter program is operational, the Seattle City Council will also have to revise the city's municipal code which currently prohibits electric scooters from traveling in bike lanes and on “public paths.”

By spring, scooters will be allowed in bike lanes, streets with speed limits of below 25 mph, and paths like the Burke Gilman trail, Bergerson said.

They will still be prohibited from sidewalks.

SDOT expects scooter share companies to be operating in Seattle this spring. In October a drove of companies presented at a public meeting hosted by SDOT, including Lime, Jump, and others without a presence in Seattle, such as Ojo, Razor Share, Wheels, and Bird.

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