Over the last two years, Denver sidewalks have been inundated with the latest trend of electric scooters. Since 2017, industry pioneers Lime, Bird, Lyft, and Razor have imported 2,840 electric scooters and 500 dockless bikes through Denver’s Dockless Mobility Pilot Permit Program. According to Denver Public Works, these devices travel over 12,000 miles every day. Touted as an affordable and environmentally friendly mode of short-distance transportation, the question of safety remains largely unanswered. As data continues to develop, it is clear these devices pose a safety risk to the community. We explore the current Denver scooter laws, and what to know if you have been in a scooter accident in Denver.
Denver’s Law on Operating Electric Scooters on Sidewalks
Currently, Denver ordinances allow electric scooters to operate in bike lanes and streets with speed limits of 30MPH or less. If neither is an option, electric scooters can operate on sidewalks, traveling at a speed of 6MPH or less. Feedback from Denver’s Dockless Mobility Pilot Program has caused Denver Public Works to recommend several revisions to Denver’s ordinances regarding electric scooters and bikes. Specifically, the proposed revision would prohibit electric scooters on sidewalks. If approved, riders would be required to obey traffic-control signals and signs applicable to all vehicles.
What Risks do Electric Scooters Pose?
The convenience and flexibility of electric scooters cause many potential safety risks. Users often ride on sidewalks at maximum speeds. This sets them up for a possible collision with a pedestrian. While such a collision may be less likely to result in serious injury or death, a collision with a pedestrian at 15MPH could send both the rider and the pedestrian to the hospital.
If Denver’s new ordinance passes, users of electric scooters will be forced to the streets and bike lanes. This could potentially lead to even greater safety risks. Roadways in Denver are not designed for the new transportation mode. Accordingly, drivers and cyclists are unfamiliar with accounting for electric scooters and bikes in traffic and may be slow to react when a rider navigates through traffic. In addition, scooters can be difficult to spot by drivers on the road, increasing the risk of riders being hit by cars.
Laws and rules governing the operation of electric scooters and bikes vary from municipality to municipality. New York City, for example, has banned all devices from operating in city limits, partly because of concerns about adding more mayhem to the city’s already crowded sidewalks. Other cities have entered into exclusive contracts with some companies and not others. San Francisco has banned Bird and Lime from operating in city limits but rivals Scoot and Skip are permitted to operate in San Francisco because of their professed commitment to community engagement and rider-safety training. Washington, D.C., has allowed electric scooters and bikes but the District Department of Transportation capped the top speed of scooters at 10MPH.
Faced with legal challenges in other areas and threats of more citywide bans, these companies have become more proactive about safety. For example, Lime recently released an upgraded Gen 3 model with bigger wheels and extra rear brakes. Lime has also given out over 250,000 free helmets to riders and invested more than $3 million in rider education. Bird has similarly given out thousands of helmets and has launched the new Bird Zero models, which offer larger wheels and a lower center of gravity. Bird also announced a plan to launch a Global Safety Advisory Committee focused on both rider and pedestrian safety.
Involved in an Accident with an Electric Scooter?
While it is impossible to predict when or where an accident will take place, knowing what to do in the event of a crash can help save lives, reduce injuries, and also make the claims process simpler easier. Accidents can be filled with adrenaline and confusion. Drivers should remember the necessary steps after an accident to help protect everyone involved.
- Get to a Safe Area: Get to a safe area, especially if you were riding in the road at the time of the collision.
- Check on Anyone Else Involved: Electric scooters and bike may involve the scooter and a motor vehicle, another scooter, a pedestrian, a cyclist, a motorcyclist, or a skateboarder. After moving to a safe area, you should immediately check on anyone else involved in the accident.
- Call 911: In the event of an accident involving an electric scooter, you should contact 911 to report what happened and to request an ambulance if you are injured. Make sure you provide the reporting officer with an honest and truthful statement of how the accident occurred.
- Gather Information While you Wait for Police: Make sure to get the information of any other person involved in the collision. This includes taking a picture of their driver’s license and insurance card. If involved in an incident with a motor vehicle, document the make, model, year and license plate of the vehicles involved. It is also important to gather as much evidence as you can at the scene. This includes take down a statement and information of any witness or anyone else involved in the incident.
- Go to the Hospital: Visit an emergency room if you were injured in an accident involving an electric scooter or bike. If you refuse treatment at the scene and refuse transport to the emergency room, you should see your family doctor within 24 hours of the accident. Even if you do not feel you were seriously injured, it is important to document medical treatment after a crash, particularly if injuries present themselves later down the road.
- Contact an attorney: In a car, bike, or pedestrian accident, you may have a pretty clear understanding of your rights, how liability works, and whether insurance is going to cover your injuries. As electric scooters and bikes are a relatively new phenomenon, you may be less sure about your rights or liability in the event of an accident. This is why you should contact an experienced Denver personal injury lawyer.
Who is Liable in an Electric Scooter Accident?
While drivers of vehicles are required to carry liability insurance, electric scooter drivers have no such requirement. Automobile insurance generally does not cover scooter or bicycle rentals. Liability, however, depends on various factors:
- At-fault rider: If the scooter rider was at fault, s/he can be held financially responsible for your injuries. If the rider has homeowner’s or renter’s insurance, that insurance company might cover your claim.
- Scooter company: If you have been injured as the result of a malfunctioning scooter, you may be able to file a claim against the scooter company.
- Product manufacturer: If an inherent defect, such as a manufacturing or design flaw, caused your accident and resulting injuries, you may be able to file a product liability claim against the scooter manufacturer to seek compensation for injuries and damages.
- At-fault motorist: If you were struck by a negligent motorist, you can file a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance carrier. The driver’s auto insurance carrier should compensate you, particularly if the motorist’s negligence caused the accident and injuries.
- At-fault pedestrian: If a pedestrian causes a scooter rider’s injuries by stepping into the rider’s path, then the pedestrian’s homeowner’s or renter’s insurance might be able to compensate you for your injuries.
- Negligent business: Scooter riders often have difficulty maneuvering around debris and other dangerous conditions on the roadway. These dangerous conditions may occur because of a business discarding debris or trash outside. In such cases, the at-fault business or their insurance carrier may be liable for your injuries and damages.
- Government entity: If a dangerous roadway condition such as a pothole, uneven pavement or poor lighting has caused your scooter accident and resulting injuries, you may be able to seek compensation from the city or government entity responsible for maintaining the roadway. It is important to remember that the statute of limitations for claims against government entities is short, so you must file any such claim within six months of the injury date.
Contact a Denver Personal Injury Law Firm
If you have been hurt while riding an electric scooter in Denver, you may be confused about your legal options and unsure about who will pay for the economic and non-economic harm that you have suffered. At Bowman & Chamberlain, LLC, our Denver electric scooter accident lawyers can help you. We will start by reviewing your case free of charge and walking you through the different routes for pursuing compensation. If you decide to work with us, we will advocate for you on a contingency fee basis and work hard to seek a full and fair settlement amount. Contact the Denver personal injury law firm of Bowman & Chamberlain, LLC, to learn more.
Owner and Managing Attorney
Jerry Bowman, J.D., M.A., Owner and managing attorney of Bowman Law LLC, takes his responsibility to the legal profession seriously and dedicates his time and effort to providing quality and competent legal representation to clients in Denver and throughout all of Colorado. He holds an MA in Political Science from Wayne State University and earned his law degree in two and a half years from Michigan State University College of Law.