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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

One of the unintended consequences of the transportation revolution Silicon Valley is unleashing on city streets is a macabre new array of traffic jams, injuries and even deaths.

The big picture: Cities have been built for personal cars for a century, and they are unprepared to manage the new modes of transportation that are rapidly gaining popularity.

  • Case in point: After many, many scooter rides in D.C., I fractured my elbow on Sunday when I collided into the sideview mirror of a parked car while riding a Bird scooter.
  • After my fall, I visited George Washington University Hospital where a radiologist told me the ER sees 1 or 2 scooter injuries per week.
  • A Bird spokesperson told Axios the company has worked with riders and cities to promote safety, including adding an in-app tutorial for riders, launching a 100-city tour to collaborate with local officials on policies, and giving away 65,000 free helmets to date.
"I don’t blame so much the scooters or the bikes, but I blame cities that continue to be organized primarily around the car."
— Richard Florida, an urbanist at the University of Toronto

The side effects:

  • 1 electric scooter rider was injured for every 5,000 scooter trips, per a 3-month CDC study in Austin. About half of the total number of injured riders sustained head injuries. A Consumer Reports investigation counted 8 scooter-related deaths as of June 2019.
    • Yes, but: "In 2018 alone, automobiles killed over 6,200 pedestrians in this country," Harvard's David Zipper notes in CityLab.
  • Scooters are giving rise to new types of crime as well. There are Instagram accounts dedicated to defacing and destroying them. And criminals have used scooters to lure the freelancers who track and charge them into unsafe areas to rob or attack them, reports The Verge.
  • Uber and Lyft, the leaders of the transportation revolution, have admitted that ride-hailing is contributing to traffic congestion in cities.
  • And there's an all-out war for curb space in cities, with dockless scooters and bikes parked with abandon and autonomous delivery robots rolling alongside pedestrians, writes Axios' Kim Hart.

Some cities, including Davis, Boulder and Virginia Beach, have responded by banning scooters — at least for now. But that's an imperfect solution, experts say.

  • Tech giants will keep lobbying to enter new cities — and their track record has been strong so far. Think of all the cities that tried to keep Uber and Lyft out, but eventually caved.
  • Companies will also keep innovating and come out with more new ways of getting around. Uber says it plans to put flying taxis in some cities in the next few years, Axios' Joann Muller reports.

Better solutions might be for cities to have places to park and dock e-scooters and e-bikes, or add dedicated, protected lanes for different types of mobility going at different speeds, Florida says. Some, like D.C., have capped scooters' maximum speeds to make them safer.

The bottom line: "It's a new world of different types of mobility, and we don’t really know what the effects are going to be," says Jessica Cicchino, vice president of research at the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, which is working with GW on a scooter injury study. "There do seem to be benefits, but now we have to see what can we do policywise."

Go deeper

Former Georgetown tennis coach pleads guilty to accepting admissions bribes

Gordon Ernst (left) former head tennis coach at Georgetown, is pictured outside the John Joseph Moakley United State Courthouse in Boston on March 25, 2019. Photo: Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

A former Georgetown University head tennis coach has pleaded guilty Tuesday to bribery charges related to facilitating the admission of prospective applicants.

Why it matters: Gordon Ernst solicited and accepted bribes from William Singer, ringleader of the cheating scheme uncovered by Operation Varsity Blues, and families in exchange for helping prospective applicants get into Georgetown as student athletes, according to the Justice Department.

3 hours ago - Health

CDC says some immunocompromised people can get fourth COVID shot

Photo: Noriko Hayashi/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in updated guidelines Tuesday that some immunocompromised people who have received either Pfizer or Moderna's COVID-19 vaccines will be able to get a fourth shot.

Details: People over 18 who are "moderately to severely immunocompromised" and have received three doses of an mRNA vaccine may get a fourth shot (of either the Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson vaccines) at least six months after getting their third Pfizer or Moderna dose, per the CDC.

4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Biden plan expected to include at least $500B for climate

Photo: Stephanie Keith/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The White House is privately telling lawmakers the climate portion of President Biden's roughly $2 trillion social spending plan is "mostly settled" and will likely cost more than $500 billion, two sources familiar with the talks tell Axios.

Why it matters: A price tag of $500 billion to $555 billion is a huge number and, if it holds, would likely be the single biggest component of the sweeping package. It also isn't far off from the roughly $600 billion proposed when the bill was expected to cost $3.5 trillion.