First full year of scooters in Denver comes with some complaints

DENVER -- Electric scooters arrived in Denver about one year ago. Since then, they have become extremely popular as an alternative to walking, biking and driving.

“People are using scooters to replace walking trips, but also to replace those vehicle trips as well,” said Heather Burke with Denver’s Department of Public Works, which runs the pilot program in the city.

In the program’s first year, the popularity of scooters has exploded, from a couple hundred to 2,840. According to data from February 2019, scooters are averaging about 4,800 rides per day. It’s part of the department’s goal to reduce single-occupant vehicle commute trips from 73% to 50% by 2030.

But with more use comes more complaints.

The FOX31 Problem Solvers requested the nearly 100 complaints to the city which were made through 311. They include people leaving scooters on sidewalks, throwing them in rivers, abandoning them on private property and driving them recklessly.

Even more complaints on social media echo concerns, including issues about liability and insurance. Local State Farm agent Scott Bristol out of Golden says most people’s homeowner's or renter's insurance should cover liability, since scooter companies don’t assume any liability as part of their agreement in the individual app.

The city and county of Denver allows scooters to travel in bike lanes or on roads with a speed limit of 30 mph or less. If neither option is available, riders are allowed to use the scooters on the sidewalk, but they have to operate at a speed of 6 mph.

Most scooters' top speed is around 15 mph.

Riders are supposed to park scooters near areas of transit, like bus stations and near city bike racks. The city is working to create more bicycle and scooter dock zones as the pilot program continues.

Denver-area hospitals are seeing a significant rise in scooter injuries, including Denver Health Medical Center.

“It’s not just the person riding the scooter. There’s also injuries that occur to people on the sidewalks or on the street,” said Denver Health Emergency Department Dr. Stephen Wolf.

Wolf says injuries can be relatively severe. They include fractures, bones breaking skin (compound fractures) and head injuries. At Denver Health, Wolf says roughly 40% of the injuries they see are head-related.

Denver police tell the Problem Solvers they’ve only arrested two people for DUIs on scooters since the pilot program began, and both happened in 2018. So far, no one has died from a scooter-related injury in Denver.

Denver Public Works had more than 2,000 participants in a survey about scooters in the city, with an even 50-50 split between riders and non-riders. Thirty-two percent said they love scooters; 26% said they do not like them, but could with changes; 23% say they like them, but need a few changes; and 16% say they hate scooters. You can take the survey on the city's website.

Denver Public Works has extended the scooter pilot through August and anticipates starting a new, ongoing permit program in early September. The department is finalizing a final data report on one full year of the pilot program which it hopes to publish in August.

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