E-scooters aren't only causing havoc in Auckland. As revealed in a new Bloomberg podcast by former NZME journalist Olivia Carville, the two-wheeled contraptions are also causing massive issues in the United States.

In one example Santa Monica street performer Davey Peterson was minding his own business, entertaining a small crowd of bemused onlookers when he was wiped out by a man on a hired e-scooter.

"As I was lying there on the deck, I looked up and I saw a young man with a scruffy beard looking down on me from a Bird scooter," Peterson recalls in the Bloomberg podcast.

"He looked down on me and said ' What the eff, dude' and then he took off.


"So it was a hit and run."

It was only later, upon going to the emergency room that Peterson realised how badly he had been hurt.

"I found out I had a broken arm and that my right bicep had been severed from my lower arm. I had to have my bicep surgically reattached to my lower arm."

Listen to the podcast:

Peterson's is one of many horror stories to emerge from Santa Monica, often called ground-zero for the scooter movement.

Bloomberg's podcast reveals that citizens have had to accept the hype along with the bloody consequences as the use of these scooters increases.

Scooters may have only landed in Auckland recently, but a similar trend is already starting to take shape here with the number of ACC claims for scooter accidents already exceeding 30.

It has sparked a wide debate about how best to regulate scooters and what rules need to be put in place to ensure pedestrians remain safe.

Some commentators have already predicted that someone will die in New Zealand due to the use of these scooters.


US lawsuits start pouring in

The worst has already happened in the United States, where three people - in Dallas, Cleveland and Washington DC - have lost their lives to scooter accidents.

And having grown fed-up, angry citizen are now taking legal action.

A lawsuit targeting electric scooter-sharing companies seizes on the dangers of zipping around town on two wheels and brings gory detail to one of the more polarising technology trends to emerge over the last year.

Nine people injured by e-scooters filed the class-action suit on October 19 in Los Angeles County Superior Court. It accuses startups Bird Rides and Lime, and their manufacturers Xiaomi and Segway, of gross negligence, claiming the companies knew the scooters were dangerous and deployed them in a way that was certain to cause injuries.

The scooters have quickly become popular in Auckland. Photo/File.
The scooters have quickly become popular in Auckland. Photo/File.

Since e-scooters zoomed into the US last September with the arrival of Bird, hundreds of riders and pedestrians have landed in the hospital with injuries ranging from severe gravel rash to knocked-out teeth, ripped out toenails and detached biceps, according to doctors and victims.

There is no official tally on the number of scooter-related injuries in the country since hospitals code their patients based on the type of injury they are admitted with, rather than what caused it. But one metric Bird and Lime have been closely tracking is the number of rides their scooters have handled: more than 20 million combined and growing daily.

Electric scooters have appeared in more than 100 cities worldwide with the startups aiming to usher in a new, environmentally friendly era of micro transportation. After a remarkable one-year ascent, Bird and Lime are now two of the youngest startups to earn unicorn status in Silicon Valley with valuations of US$2 billion and US$3 billion or more, respectively.

The rapid rise of the scooter revolution has been plagued by controversy, complaints and concussions. Citing fears over public safety, officials in some cities, including San Francisco and Santa Monica, have temporarily banned e-scooters and filed criminal complaints against the companies behind them for operating without a business permit. Some frustrated vigilante residents have tossed scooters into the ocean, buried them in the sand and even set them on fire.

According to the lawsuit, two of the plaintiffs were injured by tripping over e-scooters left discarded on the footpath, four were rammed into from behind as they walked, including a 7-year-old boy who suffered severe damage to eight of his front teeth and had to get his lip stitched back together. "These companies are putting profit over safety," Catherine Lerer, the personal injury lawyer at McGee Lerer who represents the plaintiffs, said in an interview for Bloomberg's Decrypted podcast.

Since filing the lawsuit, Lerer said an additional 75 people who have suffered from scooter injuries have contacted her, including a 67-year-old man with a brain injury.

Citizens are paying for the convenience of scooters with their blood. Photo/Bloomberg.
Citizens are paying for the convenience of scooters with their blood. Photo/Bloomberg.

Bird and Lime say safety is a top priority. But from their perspective, cars are the real transportation danger.

"Class action attorneys with a real interest in improving transportation safety should be focused on reducing the 40,000 deaths caused by cars every year in the US," a Bird spokesperson said.

Lime said it could not comment on pending litigation, but in an interview on Bloomberg's Decrypted podcast, Taylor Bennett, director of public affairs, said Lime has upgraded its scooters with new safety features three times in the past year. The latest version has bigger tyres to take on potholes, brakes on the back wheel to prevent riders hurtling over the handlebars and dual suspension. The company is also handing out 250,000 helmets to its riders.

Wally Ghurabi, medical director of one of the emergency departments at UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica - ground zero for the scooter boom - said plastic surgeons have spent hours cleaning asphalt out of facial wounds to prevent gravel-rash tattoos.

"You can break your face, break your nose, break your facial bones, break your skull and bleed inside your skull," Ghurabi said, ticking off some of the risks of e-scooters.

In June, Victor San Andres was hurled over the handlebars of his e-scooter when the front brakes malfunctioned as he was cruising downhill. He remembers "flying through the air" but said his mind has mercifully wiped out the moment his face collided with the pavement. He was knocked unconscious and suffered from severe facial lacerations, a broken pinkie finger and a ripped-out toenail.

San Andres, an online video producer, was injured in New York, where the scooter-sharing companies aren't authorised to operate but some people have personal e-scooters. San Andres was given the scooter for free in exchange for uploading positive promotional scooter videos online. He isn't a signatory on the class-action suit.

- Bloomberg