Boston & Brookline Allowing Electric Scooters: A Terrible Idea

For years in Massachusetts, electric scooters, as a means of transportation (vs. recreation), were illegal in almost all cities and towns. In the past few months, however, the Boston City Council (not a body known for its intellectual acumen or common sense), voted to allow a pilot program that allows these “vehicles” into Boston. So has the town of Brookline, at least for this summer.

Under the program in Boston, officials there can issue ‘pilot licenses’, can supposedly limit the number of licenses granted each year, and can supposedly control how many vehicles can be utilized at a given time. Other provisions supposedly require companies owning these vehicles to submit ‘safety plans’ (whatever they are), and supposedly detail how those scooter companies plan to communicate safety information to people riding these things. Did you notice how many times I wrote “supposedly”? That’s because the introduction of dangerous items like small, electric scooters, is an example of how some ideas, in a theoretical context, cannot be effectively managed in a practical context. Call it the “theory-practice” divide – and the idea of hundreds or even thousands of people all over the Greater Boston area whizzing around on these things – with no direction signals on them and no operator’s licenses being required to use them, is a disaster just waiting to happen.

Exhibit ‘A’: In the town of Brookline, where I grew up and was previously an elected Town Meeting Member, a scooter operator was injured on the first day of that town’s pilot program allowing the use of these death traps. Why do I call them “things” and “death traps”? Let me count the ways:

1) Electric scooters, unlike motorized vehicles such as small motorcycles or Vespas, don’t have either brake lights or turn signals. Gov. Charlie Baker’s idea to deal with that problem, has been to file a bill that would exempt electric scooters from this requirement. Huh?

2) Also unlike Vespas or small motorbikes, electric scooters lack the power to get out of a dangerous situation quickly, with rapid acceleration. If a scooter operator suddenly saw a motor vehicle barreling toward him or her, that person’s going to be out of luck, fast.

3) Helmet laws apparently may not apply to all electric scooters, opening the door for near-certain catastrophic head injuries. And as a Boston traumatic brain injury lawyer, I’ve seen too many of those, and the neurological damages they result in are horrific.

4) The typical motor vehicle laws applicable to most other motorized vehicles, whether automobiles or motorcycles, may not apply to electric scooters. The law is still gray on this.

5) Because no training or licensing is required to rent or use one an electric scooter, the number of users who end up using them, even though they don’t know how to safely use them, will be enormous.

6) Exactly who is going to pay for injuries suffered by users of these things, or if a user hits someone else? If a user isn’t licensed – and a high amount of users will be “joy-riders” – then that user likely won’t have liability insurance to pay a victims’ medical bills, lost wages, or pain & suffering.

Enough reasons? Introduced for wide-scale use in crowded urban environments, these things are disasters waiting to happen. Hyped by companies claiming them to be the new vanguard of “micro-mobility” – the new term employed to deal with massive congestion in places like Boston, Cambridge and Brookline, they are anything but ‘solutions’. They’re actually toys – something that should be confined to amusement centers.

Because there’s nothing amusing about seeing a 2,000 lb. Motor vehicle crush a 10 lb. Scooter, and the rider that’s on it.

If you or someone you care about has been injured while using an electric scooter, feel free to contact us.  As Boston-area scooter injury lawyers, we know how to handle Massachusetts scooter injuries, which remains understandably confusing to a lot of people around here.