Not Just Bikes: Also Consider Helmets on Calgary Electric Scooters

The way we move is changing.

Over the past decade in Calgary, we have seen a huge increase in cycling in the city. More recently, electric scooters have become a popular way to get around, especially in city centers.

You’ve no doubt seen the huge range of electric scooters dotted around the city – an easy way to get
from A to B without too much effort. Just find a scooter, scan the QR code and go.

The emergence of micro-mobility, such as e-scooters, e-bikes or even self-service bicycle programs is a positive element
thing for our community, strengthening local economies and providing an environment that is environmentally conscious, cost-
efficient transportation option where ownership is not required.

Not without challenges, of course, electric scooters can be incredibly useful for everyone, even those with mobility issues.

My own experience of living with MS makes me at the mercy of using a cane on occasion. Walking several blocks at once is not a pleasant experience, but using an electric scooter as an inexpensive method of getting to your destination is a breeze.

Of course, I have a particular lens through which I view these new modes of transportation: safety.

Having seen the effects of brain damage countless times, the elephant in the room in these discussions, for me, is the question “how can people get around safely?” Safety is paramount and, as with all modes of transport, the right measures can help prevent injuries.

Occasional users in micro-mobility

Users of micro-transports are often considered occasional users. They don’t own the e-scooter or e-bike, usage is often based on availability, and they’re not necessarily part of the daily routine.

I would venture to assume that hardly anyone brings a helmet with them to ride an e-scooter, despite the fact that they can reach speeds of up to 30 km/h. And from a brain damage perspective, this can pose a potential risk of injury.

Given the nature of the use, it is difficult to promote helmet use among casual users without a more innovative approach. Companies like Neuron Mobility, which are solid leaders in the field of micro-mobility, provide helmets attached to their electric scooters. It’s an innovative way to give people the ability to protect their most valuable asset – their brain – while enjoying the convenience of the shared electric scooter system.

And their advocacy is not limited to the simple provision of a helmet. They also use their app to incentivize cyclists who wear helmets, for example, and they recognize and promote the first week of October (October 3-9, 2022) as Helmet Safety Awareness Week.

In places like Australia, where municipal scooter and e-bike sharing programs have really taken off, helmet wearing is mandatory. In Canada, British Columbia has also included mandatory helmet wearing in its provincial e-scooter rider program.

But changing laws is a long, slow process, and there are valid arguments on both sides of the issue. So maybe helmet laws aren’t the most immediate solution.

Impact of Brain Injury on Support Networks

One thing we can’t argue with is the fact that there’s no good reason not to wear a helmet. In fact, a major review of bicycle helmet use worldwide by over 64,000 cyclists found that helmets reduce the risk of serious head injury by almost 70%.

Thus, the provision of helmets is a crucial step in promoting safety and preventing serious head injuries. I know all too well the negative impact of a serious head or brain injury. In my daily work with the Southern Alberta Brain Injury Society, which supports hundreds of brain injury survivors in the Calgary area, I see this. Not only to the person with the brain injury, but also to their support networks.

Challenges faced by brain injury survivors include housing stability, poverty, food insecurity, and mobility issues, to name a few. Their support networks become de facto caregivers, and a brain injury can have lasting ripple effects on loved ones, friends, family, and anyone else connected to the survivor.

There is no cure for brain damage and the impacts can be severe. In 2010, I lost my cousin, Dan, to a brain injury. He was riding his bike without a helmet. Since then, I’ve been acutely aware of the impact of what seems like a simple choice that often gets overlooked.

Responsible micro-transportation providers make it easier for riders to choose to protect themselves and feel safer when using electric scooters.

The next time you think about wearing a helmet, I urge you to think about not just the impact on you personally, but the impact on those you love and care about.

Shane Rempel is executive director of the Southern Alberta Brain Injury Society and founder of the
ProHAB Helmet Society which has given away over 1,000 helmets by donation since 2010.

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