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E-scooter firm Bird rewards riders who take 'helmet selfies'

Jill Petzinger
Jill Petzinger, Germany Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
A man in a suit rides an electric Bird rental scooter along a city street in San Diego, California, US. Photo: Mike Blake/Reuters

Electric-scooter riders are vulnerable out in the traffic without any head protection. In most countries, they do not have to wear helmets by law, as the top speed of e-scooters does not exceed that of the average bicycle. Nevertheless, scores of accidents have happened, some fatal, since the kick-scooters hit city streets in the past few years.

Giving away helmets for free often has little effect, according to US e-scooter company Bird, which says it has given away nearly 75,000 helmets globally in the last 18 months, and “unfortunately” has not seen any increase in helmet usage.

In an effort to help make scooter travel safer, Bird is now launching an initiative called “Helmet Selfie” to encourage riders to take a picture of themselves via the Bird app wearing a helmet on their scooter trip and get rewards such as credit for future rides. Bird also wants people to post their helmet selfies to social media to encourage others to don helmets too.

Bird notes that a study on shared e-scooter related injuries from Austin Public Health found only one of 190 injured scooter riders was wearing a helmet. “To help eliminate preventable injuries, and increase usage, we are further incentivising riders with Helmet Selfie to better protect themselves from the dangers posed by cars and poor or ageing infrastructure,” Bird said in a statement.

Grand View Research predicts that that the global electric-scooter market will be worth $42bn (£32.5bn) by 2030, and companies like Bird, Lime, Tier, and Voi have flooded cities in the US, EU, and Asia with the battery scooters — London is the only EU capital where they are banned.

However, there have been thousands of accidents in the US and Europe, however, due to a mixture of people either driving them dangerously or while drunk, or riders being forced into traffic lanes because of the bad cycle-lane infrastructure in some cities.

Berlin scooter start-up Tier told Yahoo Finance UK that they encourage users to wear helmets and offer free helmets to people who attend local safety trainings. Legally, riders don’t have to wear helmets in Germany, as the scooters have a top speed of just 20 kph (just over 12mph).

Berlin authorities have been cracking down on e-scooter users who flout the rules of the road. In September, police said that scooter users often are simply unaware of traffic rules. They said there had been 74 traffic accidents between June and mid-September, 16 of those serious. In 65 of those 74 cases the e-scooter drivers caused the accidents themselves.

READ MORE: Tier becomes first e-scooter company to use swappable batteries