The motorized foot scooter rental company Lime has come to Rochester for a four-month experiment that began at the end of July. Because our law firm is located in the heart of downtown, our attorneys and staff have plenty of opportunity to watch people using them – properly and improperly. While they may offer downtown commuters an easy option for covering “the last mile,” motorized scooters are far from hazard-free, both for riders and the pedestrians and bicyclists around them. Scooter renters don’t stay downtown; they’ve been spotted in use near the south Wal-Mart and in northwest Rochester suburbs. In one four-day stretch, 2,700 riders used the scooters 6,000 times and drove them 7,800 miles, according to KIMT 3 News. It makes good sense for everyone in the city to learn about the risks associated with, and to take appropriate safety measures for, this new type of vehicle that is sharing the road with cars, trucks, and bikes.
If you’ve been seriously injured in a scooter accident,* we urge you to contact an experienced personal injury attorney immediately. A good accident attorney will investigate to establish all liable parties and deal directly with their insurance companies so that you can focus on recovering and rebuilding your life.
Motorized scooters in Minnesota are not allowed to travel on sidewalks, except when entering or leaving an adjacent property. From personal observation, few people follow this rule and, instead, zip along on sidewalks, making it highly likely pedestrians and scooters will eventually tangle. Motorized scooters are defined by state law as vehicles capable of a maximum speed of 15 mph, while the U.S. Transportation Department assumes an average pedestrian walking speed of 2.7 mph for design purposes. Given that speed variance, it’s understandable that pedestrians, especially those who are elderly or disabled, have expressed fear about their safety when scooters whiz past them. Just a few weeks after scooters were introduced here, the City of Rochester put up signs and painted notices onto sidewalks downtown reminding riders to stay off the sidewalks. In Milwaukee, walkers lodged 100 complaints about scooters on sidewalks within weeks of 500 of them appearing in the city, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
While helmets are required for scooter riders under age 18, we have yet to witness any rider with a helmet, though they’re certainly key safety equipment for anyone, regardless of age, who’s riding in the street next to cars and trucks. The lack of helmet use is unsurprising, given that those grabbing a scooter to ride a few blocks from a bus stop or parking ramp to work, or who are medical tourists with time to enjoy a sightseeing tour of the city, aren’t likely to have brought helmets along with them from home.
The lack of helmet use is one reason that risks to scooter riders are high. When scooters are in the streets, riders are, like cyclists and pedestrians, unprotected from motor vehicles. Fatal crashes have happened in cities where fleets have been deployed, according to a Bloomberg opinion piece. In the first two months after scooters (about 5,000 of them) appeared in Berlin, Germany, 40 scooter accidents resulted in six people being seriously injured.
In Atlanta, Georgia, three scooter riders were killed in collisions with vehicles within the space of about three months, according to a Star Tribune editorial. That city has banned scooter use at night in response. In Minnesota, scooters must be equipped with headlights and taillights if they will be operated under conditions when vehicle lights are required by law, such as at night or in low visibility circumstances.
One reason for high rates of serious injury scooter accidents is inexperience. A U.S. study found that 29% of all injuries occur to first-time users, according to the Bloomberg opinion piece cited above. During the Rochester experiment, it would certainly be wise to remember that both motorists and motor scooter riders, along with cyclists and pedestrians, have a shared responsibility to avoid crashes. Following the law is crucial for safety, as is maintaining constant awareness of one’s surroundings and focusing on the task at hand – whether that means driving a car or scooter, or walking along a sidewalk.
Highlights of Minnesota’s Motorized Foot Scooter Laws:
- Kids under age 12 aren’t allowed to ride them.
- Those under age 18 must wear a helmet when riding.
- Operators may not ride on the sidewalk except when entering or leaving an adjacent property.
- No passengers are allowed: Just one person per scooter.
- Motorized scooter riders should generally follow the rules that apply to bicycles.
- However, riders on motorized foot scooters cannot make left turns in traffic. They must dismount at the right-hand curb or edge of the road, then walk across the road as a pedestrian.
- Operators must ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway, except to pass another vehicle or avoid impediments.
- Riders may ride up to two abreast.
- Motorized scooters are allowed on bike paths, lanes, trails and bikeways except those closed to motorized traffic or unless local ordinances prohibit it.
- Headlights and taillights are required if the scooter is operated from sunset to sunrise or when visibility is reduced to 500 feet by conditions such as fog or smoke.
(Source: MN Statute 169.225)
Contact us today if you’ve been seriously injured in a motorized scooter accident, whether you were hurt in a car vs scooter crash or a scooter hit you while you walked on the sidewalk. Suk Law Firm has focused exclusively on personal injury law since 1988. We have recovered more than $125 million on behalf of clients and we are ready to assist you.
Besides Rochester, we serve the following major southeast Minnesota cities: Red Wing, Winona, Mankato, Austin, Albert Lea, and Owatonna, and all outlying communities, as well as the cities of Minneapolis, St. Paul, Duluth, and Bloomington. We also serve the Iowa cities of Mason City, Charles City, Osage, Spencer, Garner, Forest City, and Northwood and the Wisconsin cities of La Crosse, Onalaska, Sparta, Viroqua, River Falls, Ellsworth, Whitehall, and Black River Falls.
*A note about language:
Federal agencies involved in traffic safety have banned use of the word “accident” for more than 20 years, and with good reason. However, we use the word “accident” on our website, even though we know it has implications that run contrary to our professional thinking and training, because we recognize that “accident” is the word most commonly used in online searches when people are looking for help after being injured in a crash. If you’d like more information about this topic, please see our blog, “Car Accident or Car Crash?”