Bird scooters enters the helmet discussion with free rides for those taking helmet-wearing selfies

In an effort to boost safety, Santa Monica-based scooter company Bird will offer ride credits to users who take a selfie while wearing a helmet.

This is not the first time the company has delved into trying to get its users to wear helmets: It has given away 75,000 helmets across Santa Monica and Los Angeles but data later showed that few actually put them when hopping on a scooter.

The helmet discussion is a complicated one and becomes even more compounded when scooters are thrown into the mix.

On one hand, they save lives in accidents involving head trauma; on the other hand, they actually prevent folks from using alternative or healthier forms of transit, especially biking. On this last point, the more bicyclists there are, the more drivers learn how to drive more safely around them.

According to a study by the European Cycling Federation, countries with lower amounts of cyclists have higher rates of accidents. The Netherlands had witnessed a 45% increase in cycling and a 58% decrease in fatalities between 1980 and 2005—and also, their riders who wear helmets? That accounts for 0.1% of Netherlands’ cyclists.

In other words, as the report states, safety lies in numbers, not mandated garb. It is much like suggesting drivers wear helmets: It will surely increase their safety but lowering speed limits and increasing awareness through road design is far more efficient.

But scooters are different than bikes: Biking isn’t especially dangerous in terms of head trauma, possibly making the protection value of helmets overstated. Scooters, however, very much are: Traveling at a consistent 15 mph with nothing more than the push of a button (and some users saying they’ve reached over 20 mph on some with illegal tinkering), head injuries are one of the most common injuries reported in scooter accidents, according to research from Austin’s Health Department.

Despite this caveat between bicycling and scooting, it is likely that experts will argue for scooters the way they did for bicycling: Helmet laws are rendered moot if protected infrastructure and decreased speed limits are lacking.

Brian Addison is a columnist and editor for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or on social media at FacebookTwitterInstagram, and LinkedIn.

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Brian Addison has been a writer, editor, and photographer for more than a decade, covering everything from food and culture to transportation and housing. In 2015, he was named Journalist of the Year by the Los Angeles Press Club and has since garnered 16 nominations and two additional wins for Best Political Commentary for his work at KCET and Best Blog for Longbeachize, a section of the Long Beach Post. Brian currently serves as a columnist and editor for the Long Beach Post.
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