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As E-Scooters Roll Into American Cities, So Do Safety Concerns

Over the past year, companies have been rolling out electric scooters by the thousands in cities across the country — from Milwaukee to Washington, D.C., to Lubbock, Texas. People download the app, find a nearby scooter and then just unlock and ride. But as these shared scooters have spread, so have concerns about safety.

Portland, Oregon, is in the middle of a four-month e-scooter pilot program. You see these scooters everywhere — parked on sidewalks (they don’t require docking stations, which most shared bikes do), taking fast corners and zipping through traffic. But something you don’t see much of: helmets.

On a recent weekend, a 32-year-old woman who didn’t want to give her name because she’s breaking the city’s helmet rule is riding for the first time with some of her friends. None of them are wearing helmets, which both the city and the scooter company require — with good reason.

“One of our friends almost just got run over. The brake lights on theirs don’t work,” she says.

Part of the draw of these scooters is their flexibility — most riders we talked to hopped on a scooter on the spur of the moment. And, given the fact that most people would not want to share helmets with strangers (nor could integrity and safety be ensured if they did,) they don’t come with helmets attached. So people end up riding without any safety gear.

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