If you reside in the Twin Cities, chances are you’ve encountered an electric scooter by now. In 2018, 38.5 million trips were taken on shared scooters across dozens of US cities, according to the National Association of City Transportation Officials.
The phenomenon hit the streets of Minneapolis and St. Paul during the summer of 2018 with the arrival of Bird, a Santa Monica-based dockless electric scooter. Next came Lime, formerly LimeBikes, recognizable for its lime green electric scooters and bikes.
In August 2018, the City of Minneapolis launched its shared motorized foot scooter pilot program. During a four-month span in which the city permitted up to 400 scooters, almost 75,000 people took over 225,000 trips.
As of October 2019, there were four scooter companies in Minneapolis: Lime, Lyft, Spin, and JUMP. Between the four fleets, there are 2,000 scooters total- allotting each company 500 scooters. A maximum of 800 scooters are allowed downtown and in surrounding neighborhoods, and at least 600 scooters must be distributed in areas of concentrated poverty in north, northeast and south Minneapolis.
The city also established regulations regarding the operation and storage of electric scooters. For example, while operating a scooter, riders must ride in the bike line or with traffic, wear a helmet, and yield to pedestrians. Also, in order to properly park a scooter, the city requires that the scooters are parked near the curb and out of the way of passing pedestrians.
The city of St. Paul also launched a scooter pilot program in August 2018. The program was considered successful and two vendors, Lime and Spin, were approved to return for the 2019 season.
Each vendor is allowed to place 300 to 500 dockless scooters on city streets, but only a maximum of 150 scooters can be deployed downtown. On a daily basis, a minimum of 30 percent of the fleet must be distributed throughout “Areas of Concentrated Poverty”, an area defined by the Metropolitan Council where 50 percent or more of the residents are people of color.
Essentially, electric scooters are considered as bicycles in terms of rider etiquette. However, not every city regards scooters the same. Therefore, riders remain confused as to what traffic laws to follow, especially when riding in a new city.
It is still unclear if you can get a DUI for operating a scooter while under the influence in Minnesota.
For the purposes of being charged with a DUI, "Motor vehicle" means every vehicle which is self-propelled and every vehicle which is propelled by electric power obtained from overhead trolley wires. Motor vehicle does not include an electric personal assistive mobility device or a vehicle moved solely by human power.
While it could be argued that a scooter is a personal assistive mobility device, like in the case of a handicapped man in wheelchair type scooter who was found to not be operating a motor vehicle for the purposes of DUI. Also in 2013, it was held that a Segway was not a motor vehicle for purposes of DUI.
However, recently it has been held that someone operating an electric bicycle can get a DUI, because it has the ability to be self-propelled. There have been other states who have held that an electric scooter is a motor vehicle for DUI purposes.
Based upon this ambiguity of the law in Minnesota and around the country, it would be best practice not to operate an electric scooter under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Not only could there be possible traffic citations from driving an electric scooter under the influence, you could cause serious injury to self or others. If you receive a ticket as a result of operating an electric scooter, contact Bruno Law to discover your defense options.
Despite the regulations in place, safety is a major concern of many Minneapolis residents. The city only experienced four scooter-related crashes during the summer of 2018. However, Consumer Reports has found that at least 1,500 riders have been injured and at least eight people have died nationwide since 2017.
According to a 2018 survey from the City of Minneapolis, about 30% of scooter riders aren’t familiar with bicycles, which means that they likely aren’t familiar with the rules of the road. Many riders aren’t aware that they must ride in the bike lane and not on the sidewalk, putting pedestrians at risk of getting hit.
Additionally, Dr. Andrew Zinkel, head of the Minnesota chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians, told the Star Tribune that about 99 percent of scooter riders aren’t wearing helmets when they’re injured.
Bird has tried to combat this issue by encouraging riders to wear helmets, but they have had little success. The state of Minnesota doesn’t require riders to wear a helmet, though they are strongly encouraged. While the scooters are convenient, most people don’t keep helmets on them. Bird started offering free helmets to riders that request them. To order a helmet, users must visit the Safety tab in the app after completing at least one ride and use the same email address that’s linked to the account.
To prevent what would likely be a large number of accidents, the scooters stop operating from sunset to sunrise. Around 9-10 p.m, freelance “Chargers” come to collect the scooters for charging overnight before distributing them in the morning. This window of inactivity prevents accidents from occurring in the dark or while people are most likely under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
A rider’s personal health insurance could help defray the cost of medical bills in the case of an accident. However, riders are most likely not insured for the damages they may cause while riding.
Auto insurance generally doesn’t cover vehicles with less than four wheels. Homeowner’s or renter’s insurance may cover an accident that occurs on a traditional bicycle, but it does not cover motorized bikes or scooters.
In order to ride a Bird or a Lime scooter, riders must agree to a rental agreement that states that riders will be held responsible for any accidents, relieving the companies of liability.
To protect yourself from facing large costs in the case of an accident, call your insurance agent to ask how you can get coverage. If you have a homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy, some insurance companies offer personal liability umbrella policies which cover more scenarios and include higher limits for coverage. While some of these additional policies may cover electric scooters, all claims are investigated based on their own merits.
If you are the driver of a car and hit a rider who is following all the rules and regulations, you could be fault.This means that you are responsible for covering any damages to the scooter and injuries sustained by the rider.
Fortunately, auto insurance usually covers some or all of the cost through liability coverage. Minnesota is a “no-fault” state. This means that if you have auto insurance and a motor vehicle was actively involved in an accident, the accident victim will be compensated regardless of fault. Under the no-fault rules, your auto insurance provider must cover medical expenses up to $20,000, wage loss up to $20,000, and other expenses such as mileage and replacement services.
If you are a rider and hit a car or damage property due to distraction or loss of control, you could be responsible for covering damages to the vehicle and any medical bills of the passengers.
On the other hand, if you are a rider and indirectly cause a car crash, you could be badly injured and still be held responsible for damages to the cars and passengers involved.
For example, if you suddenly turn into the road without warning and a driver is forced to swerve out of the way, any accident that results is the fault of the negligent scooter rider. As the rider, you would also be liable for the injuries, disabilities, or death of anyone involved in the accident.
If you are driving an automobile and cause an accident with a scooter, you can be subject to all the criminal laws and traffic regulations as others on the road. These can include petty misdemeanor to felony charges depending on the facts of the case.
If you are a rider and hit and injure a pedestrian, damage property, or cause a car accident, you will be held responsible and most insurance policies don’t cover those expenses.
If you are a pedestrian and you cause a rider to injure themselves, you are at fault and responsible for any injuries sustained by the rider.
If you are the cause of scooter-pedestrian accident, you can be subject to all the criminal laws and traffic regulations as others on the road. These can include petty misdemeanor to felony charges depending on the facts of the case.
Reports of sticky accelerators, faulty brakes, and motor failures are some of the most common scooter malfunctions.
Because of the initial user agreement that places all liability on the rider in the case of an accident, a legal team has to prove gross negligence to win a case. “You have to show that something that is not inherently dangerous about the activity happened and caused the accident,” said Philip Rosescu, a forensic engineer for Wexco, which reconstructs accidents for litigation purposes, “if we can show that these things are malfunctioning, and unforeseeable things to the rider are happening, there’s a case.”
In the case of a faulty scooter, Bird says riders are fully insured for anything that might happen. Lime says its insurance policy offers at least $1 million in liability coverage for each covered claim, but there’s no way to know whether a claim is covered until an investigation is done.
If you are the victim in an accident regarding a malfunctioning scooter, you may have a civil claim against the company that provided the scooter and its manufacturer.
If you or someone you know is at-fault for a scooter-related accident, or the victim of scooter-related accident in Minneapolis, get in touch with our firm to learn what we can do for you.