Scooters in Norman

A trio of riders use a Lime scooter before an OU football game last year. So far this year, Norman Regional Health System reports there have been between 25 and 30 injuries related to scooter crashes. 

E-scooters have ushered in a zippy transportation revolution. But as fun and easy as they may seem to operate, injuries are not uncommon.

“Doctors at Norman Regional emergency rooms have seen about 25 to 30 incidents involving scooters since January 2019,” said Melissa Herron, Norman Regional Health System spokesperson. “However, the frequency of these incidents is increasing.”

Those figures were gathered by Emergency Department System Manager Kyle Hurley who surveyed emergency medicine physicians at Norman Regional Hospital and Norman Regional HealthPlex.

His survey revealed that most incidents recorded so far this year involved a fracture to either the arm or face. Also, of the patients seen for injuries, none were wearing helmets.

Though helmets wouldn’t have saved those arms and wrists, they may have made a difference for those who suffered head injuries.

Sean Flood, CEO and founder of Gotcha, said safety is a top priority for his company, which also operates the Crimson Cruisers bike-share program at the University of Oklahoma.

“We have warehouse stocks full of helmets and we’d be more than happy to get [one] to an individual who would like to get a helmet,” said Flood.

He said those interested in acquiring a free helmet can contact Gotcha via social media or call the company’s 24-hour rider experience phone line.

While Bird and Lime offer similar free helmet options, Flood said Gotcha’s safety philosophy also hinges on product quality. He didn’t point to any company in particular, but said there has been a trend of non-fleet quality scooters on the scooter-share market.

“We took a lot of time to make sure we had an agreement with the city to be there and then set up operationally to really run the system with a local warehouse, a local community manager, a local operations manager — all full-time Gotcha employees,” he said. “We did that so that when the system went live we had a system in place that could be safe for the rider.

“Now there’s no guarantee that it’s 100-percent free of any errors that a user or anything could have that could cause an accident, but by taking that approach it allowed us to build the right system … I think that’s a big part of it.”

Despite those efforts, crashes happen.

Norman resident Phil Lewis did not expect that he would end his night in the hospital when he took his first (and last) ride aboard a Lime scooter last month.

The result of that ride was two broken teeth, a broken nose and a broken wrist.

Now in the process of recovering from those injuries, he said he would advise riders to take caution.

“I would say that really the wheels are too small on those things,” he said. “They need to be bigger so they can handle potholes and cracks in the road.

“The company could probably [do a better job of warning people about the risks] … I don’t know how they would do that, but it’s dangerous. They go too fast, in general.”

There’s also the question of where the e-scooters are allowed to ride. There is not a city ordinance that expressly governs their use, so where a person rides an e-scooter is up to the rider's discretion unless noted by signage in a specific area.

“That being said, we encourage riders to choose the safest option based on their location while obeying all traffic laws and rules pedestrians or bicyclists would follow on a sidewalk or roadway,” said Norman Public Safety Information Officer Sarah Jensen.

Mack Burke

mburke@normantranscript.com

follow me @mackburke4

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