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In wake of second e-scooter death, Atlanta leaders promise a push for safer streets

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City councilmember: “When someone dies on our roads, it, in part, represents a failure of design”

Cyclists and e-scooter patrons during a recent Atlanta Streets Alive, where non-motorists are protected from cars.
Cyclists and e-scooter patrons during a recent Atlanta Streets Alive, where non-motorists are protected from cars.
Curbed Atlanta

Another tragedy has claimed the life of an e-scooter rider in Atlanta. And it’s evidence, city leaders say, that streets need to better serve non-motorists and that regulation of dockless devices is paramount as they grow in popularity.

On Wednesday night, a CobbLinc bus driving through Midtown struck 37-year-old William Alexander, pinning him beneath the vehicle and subsequently killing him, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

City officials said Alexander was traveling home from an Atlanta United match at the time.

Alexander’s death marks what officials believe to be the second e-scooter-related fatality within city limits, after 20-year-old Eric Amis, Jr. was hit by an SUV and killed while leaving the West Lake MARTA station in May.

The first fatal accident spotlighted the need for better infrastructure for alternative modes of transportation in Atlanta, advocates stressed. There are no bike lanes on the street where Amis died.

Alexander’s death has now instilled a sense of urgency among city leaders calling for change.

“In addition to a time of mourning, it’s also a call to act,” Atlanta City Councilman Amir Farokhi stated in a press release Thursday. “We need to invest more in complete streets—streets that accommodate cyclists, scooters, and pedestrians as much as they do cars. It’s in our power to ensure these sorts of tragedies are absent from our city.”

He added: “When someone dies on our roads, it, in part, represents a failure of design.”

City Councilman Andre Dickens said the city’s chief operating officer, as well as the commissioners of the public works and city planning departments, should join the Atlanta Police Department in investigating the latest incident.

Their evaluation, he said, could help Atlanta officials understand “how our city’s transportation and construction management practices could be improved and aligned to prevent further injury and loss of life on our streets and sidewalks.”

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

That added context, per Dickens, can’t come soon enough.

“In the six months since city council passed new laws impacting the operation of e-scooters and other mobility devices in the city, we’ve learned a lot about ridership trends, rider behavior, and how to manage these devices,” said Dickens.

But, as is evidenced by accidents like Wednesday’s and others, people are still getting hurt.

“A cyclist in a bicycle lane was severely injured just last week, and another scooter rider was killed near West Lake station in May, on top of multiple fatal vehicle accidents and pedestrian deaths,” Dickens said.

And early Wednesday morning, a cyclist in Sandy Springs was fatally hit by an alleged drunk driver, according to WSB-TV.

“These events and others indicate that we need a critical review of our light transportation infrastructure, our police practices around enforcement, and our overall safety around all forms of transportation,” said Dickens, nodding to the importance of the city’s new Department of Transportation.

A new study by insurance company VOOM also shows that nearly half of all millennials who ride e-scooters worry about hurting themselves and others, although most have never considered purchasing insurance.

Additionally, the “largest e-scooter companies in the U.S. place the responsibility for accidents on the user alone as part of their rental agreements, a fact most scooter riders are unaware of,” according to VOOM reps.

Per that company’s study and recent survey, 40 percent of e-scooter riders have either been in an accident or know someone who has.