This is a cautionary tale of look before you ride, or in the case of Bird scooters, look before you fly. The electric scooters reach up to 20mph when in motion. Local 24 has told viewers about the city’s partnership with the mobility scooters and the money it receives. We’re learning the deal has come with injures.
While there are no official numbers of crashes and injuries, plenty of people say they need to go.
Local 24’s Dave Detling spoke to riders who question the program and safety of the scooters.
“The medical bills are piling up,” said Tabitha Burchfield. “I had to get a cat scan, an MRI and an X-ray. I’ve basically just been hanging around.”
You won’t find Burchfield at her usual spot, serving customers at Ponotac Lounge on South Main while she recovers from a torn meniscus. She told Local 24 she needs to keep her leg elevated. Surgery is coming in a few weeks.
“I can walk,” she said. “I just can’t bend my knee. That why I wear this knee immobilizer brace. I’m not supposed to put so much pressure on it.
She injured herself three weeks ago while riding a Bird scooter. It happened while crossing the trolley tracks.
“They tell you not to ride across the trolley tracks, but you don’t think in your head, okay, ‘I really can’t ride across them. What’s the trolley track really going to do?'”
Burchfield learned the hard way.
“My ankle went one way and my knee popped the other,” she said. “In my case, the Bird doesn’t work for me. I’m sure there’s a lot of people that love this but it’s a no go for me. I got on it one time and I was one and done.”
You’ve probably seen them. There are 200 electric black and white scooters scattered across Memphis.
You might even know someone who’s been hurt. Before Burchfield’s own accident she saw plenty of scooter crashes.
“I’ve seen people almost get hit by vehicles, I’ve seen riders Snap chatting. They’ve wrecked while Snap chatting.”
As Local 24 has reported, Bird scooters paid a one-time, $500 fee for a permit with an annual $250 renewal fee. The company agreed to also pay $50 per scooter up to $20,000, with the funds received to covering any city costs related to the improper use of the scooters.
Bird also said it would pay the city of Memphis $1 per scooter per day. That’s $73,000 per year for 200 scooters. The money would be funds set aside for construction of new shared mobility infrastructure, promotion of safe driving, or maintenance of shared infrastructure.
Local 24 has learned when it comes to personal injury, the liability is on the rider. Upon agreeing to operate the electric scooter a rider signs a liability waiver.
On Friday, Local 24 met the Duarte brothers signing up for their second ride on the Birds.
“It’s just fun to zoom around,” said Jonathan Duarte. “You can get places a little quicker and see interesting things.”
Jonathan and his brother David said they’re aware of the potential dangers, adding they’ve seen their fair share of close calls.
“I’ve seen a few people kind of zip on through the crosswalk when there’s cars coming,” said Jonathan. “You’ve got to be sure to stop. Watch out for people. Stay off the sidewalks. You don’t want to hit any pedestrians.”
“You just have to be aware of your surroundings,” said his brother David.
As for Tabitha Burchfield, she said you won’t find her getting on another scooter.
“I’m one and done,” she said. “It may work for others, but it didn’t work for me. Maybe the city needs to have more inset laws.”
Local 24 reached out to Memphis City Council for comment on the safety of Bird scooters and an update.
Chairman Berlin Boyd issued this statement:
“The Shared Urban Mobility Ordinance was approved on July 24th and with the passage of the minutes on August 14, the legislation will be final.
Memphis has a lot to offer in terms of its amenities and the options it provides to its citizens. Urban Shared Mobility Devices is new transportation technology that provides a quick and convenient way to get from one point to the next.
Memphis is on the forefront of this transportation mode and joins select other cities, including multiple cities in California, that offer this emission reducing and congestion free transportation.