Scooter hit-and-run triggers battle over rider location data

After a cyclist was badly injured by an e-scooter rider, lawyers aim to find the culprit through scooter companies' data records.

Dara Kerr Former senior reporter
Dara Kerr was a senior reporter for CNET covering the on-demand economy and tech culture. She grew up in Colorado, went to school in New York City and can never remember how to pronounce gif.
Dara Kerr
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Scooters and bicycles now share city streets, but not everyone follows the rules of the road.

James Martin

Electric scooters have been on the streets in Chicago for just three weeks, and they already appear to be causing a disruption. In one incident, a cyclist ended up in the emergency room trauma unit after being hit head-on by a scooter rider.

Allyson Medeiros was riding his bike home from work in the city's Wicker Park neighborhood at around 5:30 p.m. on June 20, according to his lawyers. He was riding with the flow of traffic in the bike lane when a scooter rider -- going the opposite direction on the wrong side of the road -- crashed into him. The scooter rider fled. Medeiros was rushed to the hospital with multiple breaks to his jaw, nose, orbit and palate, and lacerations requiring more than 20 stitches. He had to have multiple surgeries.

Read more: How to avoid injuries while riding scooters

Now Medeiros' lawyers are asking both the city of Chicago and the 10 scooter companies operating there to turn over real-time location data for all the scooters in the area at the time of the crash, according to court documents. Their hope is to identify the hit-and-run scooter rider.

Watch this: Electric scooters are sending scores of people to the hospital

"We're here today because a coward left Allyson battered and bloody in the middle of the street," Bryant Greening, Medeiros' attorney from law firm LegalRideShare, said in a statement. "And by remaining silent, the responsible scooter company allows that coward to hide in the shadows."

Electric scooters, which have become available in around 100 US cities over the last year, are responsible for as many as 1,000 accidents per month. Riders have ended up in the emergency room after discovering their brakes didn't work or speeding into oncoming traffic. At least 10 people have been killed in e-scooter accidents, and hospitals around the country report daily injuries, some of which are life-threatening or leave people permanently disabled. 

Because the rentable vehicles are so new, federal and local officials haven't started tracking accidents, and the companies have declined to release any statistics. But emergency rooms in various cities -- such as San Diego, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Austin, Texas -- have begun to tally injuries. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also conducted a nationwide study on scooter accident rates and found that 45% resulted in head trauma.

Medeiros is expected to fully recover, but he now owes thousands of dollars in medical bills and doesn't have health insurance, according to LegalRideShare. While his friends have put together a GoFundMe donation page, Medeiros' lawyers believe the scooter rider's insurance should help foot the bill. 

LegalRideShare filed a petition on Monday with the Circuit Court of Cook County for the identities of all scooter riders near the crash site on the evening of June 20. The lawyers are asking the top four scooter companies -- Bird, Lime, Jump by Uber and Lyft -- as well as six other smaller companies to cooperate. Because scooters are operated through people's personal smartphones, data on the riders can be tracked

"Safety is fundamental to Lyft, and we stand ready to assist law enforcement with any investigation into this incident," said Lyft spokeswoman Campbell Matthews. 

Lime declined to comment on this specific case. The company says it'll protect rider privacy and data, but its user agreement also says it'll comply with subpoenas.

Bird and Jump by Uber didn't respond to requests for comment. 

Under Chicago's scooter permitting laws, the companies must keep rider location data and notify the police department when criminal activity happens. That's why LegalRideShare is also requesting the city turn over any data it may have.

A spokesman for the city of Chicago said it had not yet received the lawsuit and therefore cannot comment.

"The past 23 days have been hell for Allyson," Greening said. "The responsible parties must be held accountable, including covering the costs of the medical bills, lost wages and pain."

Originally published July 8.
Update, July 8: Adds comment from Lyft spokeswoman Campbell Matthews. Update, July 9: Adds information from city of Chicago spokesman.

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