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E-scooter etiquette

| Monday, October 4, 2021

“Notre Dame Student Killed On E-scooter”

That is one headline I never want to read, but unless some e-scooter or e-skateboarder riders change their driving habits, I fear we will read that someday.

Last spring, I was teaching in Jordan Auditorium when, just before class, a masked-up student came to the front of the class with a very bloody face and injured arm. He explained he needed to go to St. Liam’s and a friend would take him there after being hit by a hit and run driver who ran a stop sign. Since then, I have seen several close calls. Just Thursday, I saw a student almost get nailed by a speeding e-scooter who was probably running late for a class or practice. If they had collided, it would have been a disaster.

Disturbingly, the sight of e-scooters zipping in and out of walkers, non-motorized skateboarders, bike riders and people just chatting on a sidewalk is growing exponentially. Sprinkle in the hundreds of students texting on phones with ear pods drowning out everything but music, oblivious to the danger that lurks outside their heads. With no helmets and no padding, e-scooters seem to assume that everyone will make way for their speeding needs. Unless changes occur, a campus fatality awaits.

Electric scooters arrived here in the U.S. in 2017. It has been estimated by “The Conversation” as of April 15 of this year that at least 30 people have been killed riding e-scooters with 80% of those deaths involving cars. By 2019, e-scooter rides had soared to more than 88 million. Based on personal observations since then on the Notre Dame campus, my guess is that number has soared considerably.

The e-scooter is here to stay, for sure, but with 500-watt scooters such as the Inokim OXO being advertised to reach speeds as high as 40 miles per hour and few regulations, disaster awaits. Based on personal observations, that speed is being reached by scores of e-scooters on our campus sidewalks every day. The e-skateboarders pose similar threats. With skateboards like Meeko capable of reaching speeds up to 35 miles an hour, these new means of transportation pose dangers as well.

With tight class schedules and other time pressures, I get that the e-scooter and e-skateboard are an environmentally friendly and convenient mode of transportation. But, if you will indulge this senior citizen, I have five tips for a safer e-scooter/e-skateboard experience for all:

1. Wear a helmet please … If you have a collision, broken bones heal, but fractured skulls not so easily.

2. Assume that every walker, rider or vehicle is not going to yield to you.

3. Stop riding on sidewalks please. The e-scooter is very quiet and people can’t hear you coming.

4. Keep your speed to no more than 20 MPH on campus.

5. Get a headlight for night riding. Potholes and concrete cracks can take you down quickly.

Too many times, better protective measures are not taken until a serious accident occurs. With better adherence to safety measures with e-scooters and e-skateboards, let’s not wait until we have to read an avoidable tragic headline.

Chris Stevens

associate teaching professor

Oct. 1

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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