How to terrify people about scooters.

Washington Post gives just enough data to scare you away from scooter share.

Headline: “Hospital ER reports 161 percent spike in visits involving electric scooters.”

Between June and September 2017, physicians at University of Utah Health’s emergency room treated eight patients injured by scooters, although each of those were probably people’s personal devices and not the electric fleet vehicles owned by companies such as Bird, Lime and Skip.
During the same period this year, that number had climbed to 21, according to Troy Madsen, a doctor who practices at the University of Utah Health’s Emergency Department.

So, an increase from 8 to 21.

“Most of the patients with these injuries specifically reported that they were riding an e-scooter or a rental scooter,” Madsen said, noting that they ranged in age from 20 to 50 years old and were often injured attempting to catch themselves in a fall. “Interestingly, more than 80 percent of the injuries this year happened between Aug. 15 and Sept. 15, which would correspond with the increasing popularity and availability of the e-scooters.”

The article notes that the increase in injuries is related to the increase in ridership but makes no mention of how much the ridership has increased. It also makes no attempt to quantify what the rate of injury is per rider or per ride.

In July it was estimated than as many as 1000 new scooters were dropped on SLC. We don’t know if there have been more since then, or what the use rate of the scooters is, but it’s safe to say that total scooter use is up by far more than 161% from what it was before these services were available.

In other words, the rate of injury is probably significantly down from what it was before scooter rental companies came in. This is the opposite impression from what the article presents by simply excluding any numbers about the increase in use or what at what estimated rate riders are being injured. It only uses the increase in ridership to connect the new injuries to the introduction of scooter share services.

It’s well documented that for bicycles and pedestrians that in urban areas there is “safety in numbers.” The default assumption here should be that the greater the number of people riding scooters the lower the injury and fatality rate. This is left out, and because scooters are “new” the article uses a benign and potentially positive statistic to increase potential riders fears.