- Police in Nashville, TN are still searching for the driver of a car that hit and critically injured two women riding Bird electric scooters last Sunday in the city’s downtown, according to The Tennessean and others.
- According to reports, Lindsey Cowan, 28, of Knoxville, TN, and Rachel Johnson, 27, of Oak Ridge, TN, were taken to Vanderbilt University Medical Center with major injuries. Police said neither was wearing a helmet.
- Officers said a Lexus sedan struck the women and sustained damage to its front end. The car continued traveling after the collision, but lost its front bumper at the scene.
This latest incident brings more attention to the proliferation of dockless bike-share and scooter companies in cities across the United States and the lack of infrastructure to keep up with their growth. And while that can create annoyances for city dwellers — like sidewalk clutter that has led to enhanced enforcement in Austin, TX, San Francisco and Dallas — the issue of rider safety is a whole different ballgame.
Bird came under fire in Nashville earlier this month after city officials sent the company a cease and desist letter just one day after it launched its service there, and this latest incident raises questions around the company’s liability around similar accidents. The company was still operating lawfully, as the May 8 letter from Metropolitan Attorney Theresa Costonis gave them 15 days to remove their scooters. Thom Rickert, an emerging risk specialist at Trident Public Risk Solutions in Dallas, told The Tennessean there could also be “reputational risk” to Bird because of this collision.
Multiple outlets report that Nashville is working on a regulatory and legislative framework to govern dockless scooters, hence the sending of the cease and desist letter, and accidents such as these throw that into sharp focus. Cities must decide how their already-stretched infrastructure will handle these new technologies and companies, and how to educate all road users about how to be safe when around people using scooters. It is a similar discussion to the ongoing one around preparing city infrastructure for more autonomous vehicles (AVs), so city leaders will have to be forward-thinking and nimble in their legislating to deal with such disruptive new ways to get around.