Starting January of this year, California law no longer requires electronic scooter (e-scooter) riders over the age of 18 to wear helmets. Helmets are still required for riders who are 17 and younger.
Since e-scooter popularity is relatively new, there have not been many studies done pertaining to their safety or rider knowledge on how to effectively ride them. However, one study completed by UCLA researchers showed that over a single period of time, e-scooter riders were taken to emergency rooms far more often (249) than bicyclists (195) or pedestrians (181).
Mixture of potential danger
According to the California Vehicle Code, e-scooters can be ridden in bike lanes. The question is, will adding a new element to bike lanes cause more accidents and potential catastrophic head injuries since helmets are optional?
Local authorities have some power to determine whether e-scooters can be in bike lanes. A local area can prohibit e-scooters from entering bike lanes, which would cause them to have to ride in other areas, which may end up putting them in a dangerous area at certain times. Right now, e-scooters are limited on the types of roads they are allowed to be on. Most notably, they can only be on streets if the speed limit is 25 mph or lower.
E-scooters cannot go on sidewalks. With speeds of up to 15 mph, they travel much faster than someone walking.
Can e-scooters and bicyclists safely cohabitate in the same lane? Time will tell if the addition of e-scooters is dangerous and disruptive or if they will become a more widespread and viable form of transportation. Like most things, it will likely be judged on its safety record. If numbers of both bikers and e-scooter rider injuries continue to climb when sharing a lane, you can anticipate an effort to separate the two.