Nearly three dozen people have been injured in electric scooter crashes in Charlotte and Raleigh since early last year, state records show, as the rental two-wheelers spread across uptown sidewalks and streets.
The 16 injuries in Charlotte and 19 in Raleigh were reported in state crash data from January 2018 through May of this year. The numbers underscore anecdotal accounts of near-collisions with cars and pedestrians as the cities struggled to regulate an industry that seemed to appear overnight.
No one has died in the 82 total crashes reported in Charlotte, Raleigh, Winston-Salem and Greensboro that involved scooters assumed to be rentals, according to the data from the N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles. But nearly half of those crashes resulted in obvious injuries, and state data suggests that scooters crash much more often than do cars and trucks.
Charlotte scooter riders have logged nearly 1.4 million miles from May 2018 through this May, the Charlotte Department of Transportation says. (The state crash data reported here is for the period beginning in January 2018, three months before scooters were introduced.)
The 39 scooter crashes in Charlotte in that time represent 28 crashes per 1 million miles traveled. The 16 crashes with injuries produce a rate of 11.5 crashes per million miles.
Motor vehicles in Mecklenburg County, by comparison, crash only 3.4 times per 1 million miles, according to three-year averages reported in 2017. Crashes with non-fatal injuries occur only 0.9 times per million miles.
It was only a little more than a year ago that scooters owned by two companies, Lime and Bird, appeared in Charlotte’s uptown and close-in neighborhoods including South End. Spin has since joined the market. Scooters typically rent for $1 to start through phone apps.
The trend was so new that Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police didn’t have codes that isolate accidents involving the vehicles.
The whisper-quiet scooters, which hum along at about 15 mph, also faced no enforceable rules on how and where they could be ridden. Most riders in uptown prefer sidewalks and rarely wear helmets, as scooter companies recommend.
Within six months of their arrival, Charlotte City Council member Tariq Bokhari witnessed “one of the most horrific things I’ve ever seen” — a scooter headed the wrong way on a one-way uptown street that met an oncoming car.
In January, after months of study, city council adopted rules that ban electric scooters from sidewalks in the heart of downtown, although many riders ignore the rule. Council capped scooter speeds at 15 mph, lifted a cap on the number of vehicles participating companies could deploy and allowed the city to start charging fees. The city did not require riders to wear helmets.
A bill before North Carolina’s legislature would revise state motor vehicle law by adding electric scooters to a class of vehicles including bicycles and electric-assisted bicycles.
Charlotte riders have taken more than 1.2 million trips on e-scooters since May 2018, the Charlotte Department of Transportation says.
Statewide crash data shows three collisions — one in Charlotte and two in Raleigh — resulted in “incapacitating” injuries between January 2018 and this May.
Another 34 crashes resulted in “evident” injuries, including 15 in Charlotte and 17 in Raleigh, records show. Winston-Salem and Greensboro both had one crash with evident injuries.
Charlotte had 18 crashes and Raleigh five in in which reports said injuries were possible. The two cities combined for 17 crashes that did only property damage.
Many traffic accidents go unreported, the N.C. Department of Transportation says. The state crash data is limited to moving motor vehicles that are involved in an “unstabilized situation” after a loss of control.