Scooter Crashes Land Thousands of U of M Students in Hospital
The unexpected dark side of the newest Silicon Valley-inspired trend
By: Callum Leemkuil-Schuerman
It was a normal Wednesday for Maddy Lindstrom, a sophomore studying biology at the University of Minnesota. She got up, ate breakfast, and began riding a Lime scooter to class as per her usual schedule. She was outside Rapson Hall when the crash occurred. “It just plowed into me,” Lindstrom said, referring to the head-on collision with a Bird scooter that launched her 35 feet, according to eyewitness accounts. “It was kind of a Wile E. Coyote type deal,” Erik Epstein, an architecture grad student who was on the scene, reported. “It looked like she was fired out of a cannon.” Both scooters were destroyed on impact, and both Lindstrom and the rider of the other scooter, who declined to comment, have been in the hospital since late October.
Although this sounds like a one-off incident, Maddy’s story is alarmingly common. The introduction of the app-based Bird and Lime brands of electric scooters onto campus has been accompanied with a massive uptick in scooter-related crashes—over 2,000 this semester alone—and it has the attention of university administrators. “We intend to form as many committees and subcommittees as necessary to explore potential innovations and improvements with regards to this situation,” read a recent strongly-worded email from President Kaler. Despite the confident tone of the email, however, insider reports suggest that university administrators are extremely worried. “If you crunch the numbers, there have been at least five crashes per day for the past three months,” one anonymous official reported. “We’re talking thousands of kids in the hospital.”
What exactly is it about the scooters that is so dangerous? The Wake’s science team, determined to get to the bottom of this, have been running tests on several scooters and have come up with a couple of theories. “First off, I think you can put a lot of blame on just how fast these things go,” chief Wake scientist Chris Shea said. “The Lime scooters reach a top speed of 65 miles per hour, and the Birds are even faster.” Shea pointed to the Lindstrom case as an example of this problem. “The Lime scooter person wasn’t going too fast—only about 40 miles per hour. The Bird scooter, though—that thing must have been doing 70.” The science team also pointed to a peculiar mechanical flaw common to both scooters—a tendency to burst into flames and swerve out of control after a sustained 15 minutes of riding. “This is also something that I would consider to be potentially dangerous,” Shea noted.
Are the scooters worth the cost? The Wake briefly interviewed a student who was dismounting a Bird scooter outside Ford Hall and questioned him on the subject. “Yeah, I guess it sucks about all the crashes,” the student said, “but they just make everything more convenient for everyone.” The student then dropped the scooter in the middle of the sidewalk and walked into the building.