Many of the tips in this article apply to bicycles however scooters have their own set of additional risks that you may not be aware of that could put you in peril. Even experienced bicyclists need to be careful.
I am not certified. I am not the official safety expert for these devices, and so my advice is just my opinion and the opinion of other riders I’ve spoken to. Riding is dangerous and these instructions will not make it safe. So, if you want to read this article and you fall, let’s just agree that you won’t sue me. But, if you do fall and my list didn’t cover it tell me and I’ll add your story.
There are many names for this fairly new device including Electric kick scooter, E-Scooter, and in French it’s a “trottinette électrique” and other languages use derivations. They are extremely easy to ride and so very few people learn how to ride them safely. I’m going to try and help you through a very dangerous learning curve.
The objectives are fairly straight forward: don’t get hurt or hurt anyone. Which means you don’t fall, don’t get hit, don’t hit anyone, don’t scare anyone, make sure you have the correct equipment etc. But, to achieve these objectives you’ll need to learn how to properly handle your scooter and you’ll also need to learn about many gotchas that will get you. Some of them will probably get you even after reading about them. You will often see experienced riders falling for no apparent reason and we’ll uncover what those reasons are so that it doesn’t happen to you as much.
How to ride an E-Scooter
- Wear a helmet. You are new to scooters falling on a scooter can be way more abrupt than a bicycle and you may not have the time to adjust your body. So do your family a favor and wear a helmet.
- Wear closed shoes. Not flip-flops. Not barefoot. Not high heels. Not sandals or other open toed shoes. Bad shoes reduce your ability to react and increase the risk of hurting yourself.
- Do not hold a phone. I’ll explain more reasons why later, but, for starters, how are you going to use your breaks? What happens when you hit a little bump? Hold both handlebars securely with your hands.
- Additional Gear: It can’t hurt to have extra gear such as wrist guards, gloves, knee pads, hip guards, protective clothing versus road rash.
- Working brakes. You need to test your brakes before every ride. Especially if you are using a shared scooter. The most harmless trip is deadly if you don’t realize that you don’t have brakes. If you drive shared scooters you will probably forget and end up on a runaway scooter and so you should probably practice stepping off at slow speeds. There are videos on how to stop without brakes and you can find a technique that feels good for you. I’ve seen 3 techniques: 1. using the heel of your back foot to scrape the ground. 2. Jumping off with both feet around the scooter. 3. Jumping off to one side. Find out what works for you.
- Lights. If you are driving at night, always use lights.
- Reflectors. I have reflective tape anywhere that I don’t have lights. Can’t hurt and looks cool! Be seen!
- Hold both handlebars. If you don’t and there’s even a tiny bump you will abruptly push one side forward (the side you are holding) and you will fall.
- Keep your thumbs wrapped under the bars. If you don’t and there’s a bump the bar will pop out of that hand because the thumb won’t be there and the wheel will turn and you will fly. When people fall for no apparent reason, this is a hidden invisible reason. In particular accelerators often are designed to use your right thumb and so you need to be very careful when taking your right thumb from the bar and accelerating to keep your hand and thumb secure so that the handle bar does not pop out of one of your hands.
- Keep some fingers wrapped around the top of the bars. Breaks are often a lever on the top of the left handlebar and when you pick up your fingers to pull the breaks, leave a finger or two to hold the bar or the bar can pop right out. If it pops out of your hand, the bar will turn and you will fly. So, be careful.
- Use both feet. Bumps happen and feet can move a little. Having two feet to start with reduces the chance that you’ll fall off.
- Drive slowly. Try to go less than 10 MPH (16 Km/h). Scooters can typically go over 20 MPH (32 Km/h) and at that speed these little bumps are dangerous. The faster you go the more dangerous it is.
- Stop gradually. Anything abrupt always brings danger. Someone might be behind you. Weird stuff can happen such as skidding if you stop too quickly. Put on your safety gear and try it out in a park if you feel adventurous and don’t mind some pain.
- Start gradually. When you accelerate there is also risk of skidding and there is also the risk of falling backwards. Keep your balance when you accelerate.
- Keep you knees bent. When there are bumps if you knees are straight you will get launched off of the e-scooter. If your knees are slightly bent, your knees will naturally bend some more and you won’t get launched.
- One food forward, one foot backwards, versus feet side by side? I personally like the one foot forward and one foot backwards approach because bumps tend to destabilize you in front to back and this gives extra stability. Some people prefer to be side by side, but they do have wide boards when they do that. Most people have one foot forward and one backwards and even some scooters require that because they have back brakes.
- Drive slowly near people. People will hate you if you drive fast near them. You will scare them. You may hit them. You are not a pedestrian when you drive a scooter and you do not have the right of way. If you need to honk at someone, you are going too fast. Instead be civil and say, “Excuse me, can I pass?”
- Drive extra slowly into cross walks. Drivers are expecting pedestrians. They may look, and then drive and if you are going super fast, they may not look again and hit you. This is certainly their fault. But, I’d rather not get hit by a car, regardless of who is to blame.
- Avoid pedestrians even on or near bicycle paths. They don’t seem to ever expect there to be a scooter or bicycle. They don’t look. They wander around aimlessly on your paths without looking. Especially children and old people. You must slow down when you are near them or they will step in front of you and then it will be your fault, too, because you know better. Sometimes they will even die. You don’t want to live with that.
- Use both hands. I say this twice because it’s so important. You need both hands to keep the steering wheel straight especially if there’s a bump. Just think it through. If you push forward with only your left hand holding on, you will push the left side of your steering wheel forward. That’ll be bad.
- Beware water and oil. If you ride on top of water or oil, it’s best to go slowly. Don’t even bother riding in the rain. If you have to turn or use your breaks or accelerator while you are in a watery or oily area, you need to be very cautious. The scooter can slide from under you and you will fall, fast. This is less stable than a bicycle.
- Avoid bumps. The wheels on scooters are much smaller than bicycle wheels. As a result, bumps have a much bigger impact on you. A bump that’s the size of the radius of the wheel will be enough to stop your scooter cold no matter how tightly you hold on. A slightly smaller bump will be enough to scrape against the board of your scooter. Bumps will pop the handlebars out of your hand unless you have that bar very securely gripped. If that happens the bar will turn and you will fly. So go slowly over bumps when you can’t avoid them. If the bump is large, get off the scooter and walk.
- Beware of curbs. If bumps are bad, then curbs are horrible. You are guaranteed to wipe out if you go on or off a deep curve because the wheels aren’t big enough and the board will get in the way.
- Don’t scratch your itch. You need to use two hands at all times. So, if you have an itch. If your phone rings. If your hat starts flipping. Pull over.
- Avoid Sharp Turns. Like with a bicycle if you turn too sharply you will fall on your stomach and the bike will turn on its side. Even in slow motion. Be careful.
- Pick up carefully. If you pick up your scooter using your handlebars while it’s not folded, watch out. The board will swing around and hit you in the leg. To keep your ankles and shins unbruised you will need to keep on foot on the back of the scooter to keep it from swinging.
- Last tip. Push the scooter forward with your back leg and get into your regular position and then gently press the accelerator to get some thrust.
Good luck and be safe. Scooters are really dangerous, but, as they say, I’m not your mom.
That being said, they do get you around very quickly and save time and everyone seems to be using them. So, you need to make a decision about whether you want to use them and so whenever an important decision is under way, you need a SWOT Analysis.