Jim Pfiffer of West Elmira, the executive director of Friends of the Chemung River Watershed, or Chemung River Friends, recently tried a Lime e-scooter while traveling. This is what he learned:
I recently rode my first Lime electric scooter – e-scooter – while vacationing in Utah. It was fast, fun, and funky … until I hit an unseen bump and went head over heels into a sidewalk.
I had been watching folks motor around on the scooters for the first few days of my trip. It looked easy and fun (two words that always get me in trouble). I decided it would be a fun and easy way to sightsee the city.
My reasoning: I’m in good shape, have great balance, and I have been bicycling all my life. The tiny green scooter looked like something out of a cartoon. How difficult could it be? I love a challenge and adventure. Unfortunately, the part of my brain that likes challenge and adventure sometimes overpowers my common sense.
It was easy to get started. I spent several minutes downloading the scooter app, entering my credit card information, scanning the scooter’s QRS code, and reading the instructions and warnings printed on the scooter. So far, so good.
I hopped on, gave the scooter a push with one foot to get it going, hit the throttle, and was off and running – into most everything in the road. I had to share the busy downtown Salt Lake City streets with traffic, other scooters, bicycles, skateboards, bicycle rickshaws, pedestrians, and electric trollies zooming down the middle of the street. Things got interesting quickly.
The scooter speed is controlled by a throttle on the right handlebar. The other handlebar had a brake lever. The brakes were fair, but the throttle was difficult to use for lower speeds. I couldn’t keep the scooter at a constant velocity – it would speed up, slow down, and jerk me around. It was easier to use the throttle at full speed – about 12 to 14 mph.
The streets were too congested with fast-moving obstructions. There were plenty of scooters on the sidewalks, so I asked one of the riders if it was okay to ride on the sidewalks.
“You’re not supposed to,” he said. “But as you can see, everybody does it.”
I’m part of everybody, so I scooted to the sidewalks. They were congested with slow-moving obstructions: people, people texting on cell phones and not watching where they were going, homeless people, dogs, food wagons, tables and chairs, benches, bike racks, trash barrels and a gazillion cracks, holes, bumps, furrows, and debris.
Electric scooters have small wheels, and small obstructions and debris – the kind that are hard to see when you are going 14 mph – can send the tiny-wheeled conveyance and rider flying.
At one point, I hit something that sent me catapulting over the handlebars, and I hit the cement in a matter of seconds. I didn’t look back to see what I hit because I was too busy triaging my injuries, untangling my shoelace from the brake handle, and attempting to look cool and unhurt as I picked my bloodied and aching body up off the concrete.
Fortunately, I didn’t injure my head as my right shoulder slammed into the cement and stopped my fall before my skull could follow suit. I wasn’t wearing a helmet.
No serious injuries. Road rash on my knees, elbows, and an ankle. Tore something in one of my shoulders. My doctor said it would be sore for several weeks and advised me that the next time I have the urge to ride an electric scooter, I should take a nap instead.
What I learned: I was lucky. E-scooters may look like toys, but they are not. They are fast. They can’t handle bumps and debris. They have no seat belts or air bags. My advice: First-timers should test ride in an unoccupied parking lot before venturing onto the streets or sidewalks. Wear a helmet and pads.
If I ride an e-scooter again, it will be with helmet, pads, and a first-aid kit.
Thank you for reading about Jim Pfiffer’s experience, and please remember his tale if you ever get the opportunity to ride an e-scooter. They are not toys.
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