Duke may be Durham’s most popular place to ride a scooter, but some students on campus have had some trouble staying safe while riding them.
Cars have proven to be an obstacle hard to avoid.
About 10 students have gotten themselves into accidents on scooters since August, with some resulting in “serious” head injuries, broken teeth and sprained knees, according to Vice President for Administration Kyle Cavanaugh. Some student scooter riders have even hit cars, accidents that “could have been much worse,” he wrote in an email to The Chronicle.
And these are only the injuries he knows of.
“Unfortunately, few students wear helmets while riding these scooters, so the possibility of significant injury from a fall or accident with another vehicle is significant,” Cavanaugh wrote.
Duke Hospital’s Emergency Room has seen an uptick in injuries from scooters ridden at Duke and in Durham, he added. Most of the accidents have only resulted in “fairly minor” injuries, like bruises, lacerations and bumps.
This wave of injuries follows national trends.
Emergency room visits for scooter-related injuries tripled from 2008 to 2017, according to a recent study. About two-thirds of injured patients that had helmet use recorded were not wearing helmets when injured.
Duke has required its two vendors, Bird and Spin, to implement systems that prevent riding the scooters—which can travel up to 15 miles per hour—in high foot-traffic areas, like Abele Quad, the Bryan Center Plaza, the East Campus Quad and the Duke Gardens. This has worked "fairly well" to prevent wrecks and injuries, but scooters have often been left in the wrong places, Cavanaugh wrote.
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Scooters are supposed to be parked near bike racks at the end of rides, according to Duke’s regulations, except for the no-ride areas, but that hasn’t always been happening.
“We continue to see scooters being left in undesignated areas, which can lead to accessibility problems on campus and delays in redistributing scooters to one of the many bike racks on campus where they are needed,” Cavanaugh wrote.
Duke students seem to really like riding these scooters. More than 50% of Durham’s scooter usage has been on Duke’s campus so far, he wrote. Although Cavanaugh did not have data from Bird, the other vendor allowed on Duke’s campus, Spin users have ridden nearly 34,000 miles on campus in 23,000 individual rides.
The scooters have been popular in part because they provide a way to get between East and West Campuses quickly, Cavanaugh wrote.
Durham began rolling out scooters in June 2019, bringing hundreds of shared scooters to the streets. About 600 Bird, Lime and Spin scooters operate in Durham on a one-year permit, according to the city.
Been injured on a scooter? The Chronicle wants to hear your story. Email Features Editor Ben Leonard at firstname.lastname@example.org.