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Atlanta’s first e-scooter death spotlights need for infrastructure improvements

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Could bike lanes near a MARTA station have made a difference?

a picture of the road where the driver struck the rider.
An e-scooter user was struck and killed by a car driving south (left) down West Lake Avenue, authorities said.
Google Maps

Just after midnight Friday, Atlanta recorded its first e-scooter-related fatality.

Aboard a Lime e-scooter, 20-year-old Eric Amis, Jr. was leaving the parking lot of the West Lake MARTA Station when he was struck by a Cadillac SUV and subsequently died, according to Atlanta police.

Since e-scooters were introduced in Atlanta by Bird a year ago, Grady Memorial Hospital has treated between 80 and 100 scooter-related injuries monthly, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

In March, the Atlanta City Council adopted an ordinance that calls on Grady and other healthcare facilities to submit records of e-scooter-related injuries, so local lawmakers can attempt to assess how best to regulate the dockless, shareable vehicles.

How exactly Atlanta officials should regulate the new transportation option is a matter of great contention. In January, the city council passed legislation which, among other things, bars e-scooter users from parking and riding on sidewalks.

But Amis wasn’t on the sidewalk, according to reports of the accident.

Woman riding shareable scooter down street. Atlanta City Council

On the stretch of West Lake Avenue where the fatality occurred, there are no bike lanes, just two car lanes headed south—the direction the Cadillac was reportedly headed—and one going north.

The accident not only spotlights the need to closely study e-scooter-related injuries; it highlights the importance of examining how Atlanta’s streets are designed, and how motorists use them, as urbanist blog ThreadATL points out.

We know very little about the details [of the accident]. The only testimony available is from the driver, who claims that Amis entered the road suddenly. Was car-speed a factor as well? There’s no mention of it in the report, but that’s obviously some serious damage to the car for collision between a person on a scooter and a SUV.

And how about the conditions of the road where the crash occurred? Are there any bicycle lanes where the scooter could have been riding? Are police enforcing the posted 25 MPH speed limit on this street?

ThreadATL writers also nodded to a report published by Bird in April showing that more bike-friendly cities tend to experience fewer e-scooter-related injuries.

Bird, via ThreadATL

“Atlanta is, no surprise, not listed among the cities with great conditions for cycling,” the post says. “It should be. A city that’s capable of voting for a TSPLOST for road improvements and building a world-famous Beltline path should be capable of creating excellent cycling infrastructure.”

Granted, the City of Atlanta, according to its Cycle Atlanta Phase 2.0 Study from February 2018, identifies a potential improvement near where the fatal collision took place.

The official city-adopted plan would create a raised island for pedestrian and cyclists to cross West Lake Avenue near Browning Street.

The Atlanta Bicycle Coaltion sent Curbed Atlanta the following statement regarding the project:

“West Lake Avenue is sandwiched between two streets on Atlanta’s High Injury Network—Joseph E. Boone Boulevard and Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive. It’s hard not to hear some victim-blaming in the early news coverage which simply ignores excessive speeding and streets that are dangerous by design. It’s time for the city to get serious about slowing down speeding cars to prevent yet another family from experiencing the loss of a loved one.”