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Thousands of people are riding electric scooters across South Florida.
“People are using this to get to work, to get home, to get to lunch,” said Miami Commissioner Ken Russell, who pushed for a pilot program to bring e-scooters to certain parts of his district.
“This is a viable part of our transportation system now,” he added.
Russell says there have been more than 700,000 e-scooter rides since the pilot program began four months ago.
In Fort Lauderdale, one of the first cities in the state to have them, more than a million miles have been ridden since November.
Each city has its own pilot program with different rules.
But a recent NBC 6 Investigation found the popular rides can also be dangerous.
At least 90 people in Miami and Fort Lauderdale have been involved in e-scooter-related accidents and rushed to the emergency room in the past few months, according to records provided by the cities’ fire departments.
Joao Barbara, the general manager of Jump in Florida, says safety is the “number one priority” for the e-scooter company – which is owned by Uber.
Barbara says Jump’s newest model has enhanced safety features including bigger wheels and better brakes.
“It’s generally much more sturdier,” he said.
Barbara says Jump, which is operating in certain parts of Miami, is using geofencing technology to turn down the speed of its scooters in crowded areas. The company is also investing in safety campaigns including helmet giveaways and educational events.
Barbara says the company has handed out more than 1,000 helmets in the city.
Jump is not alone.
NBC 6 caught up with Lyft representatives as they were handing helmets at an educational event in downtown Miami last Friday.
“Using a helmet can save your life,” said Lyft’s Florida regional manager Ariel Meyer.
Meyers says Lyft is working with city leaders in Miami, where the company currently operates, to make sure there’s “widespread use” of helmets.
Riders are not required to wear a helmet under Miami and Fort Lauderdale rules. But both cities encouraged their use on their websites.
“This is part of the education process to make sure when they ride Lyft scooters, they have a fun, positive but also a responsible experience,” Meyer said referring to the company’s efforts.
NBC 6 Investigators found some riders are breaking the rules.
Our cameras spotted underage kids scooting around streets and sidewalks in dangerous situations, even though most e-scooter companies don’t allow minors to ride them.
“We’re working with the city to ensure no one under the age of 18 uses the scooter,” Barbara said.
Meyer echoed the sentiment urging riders to follow the rules.
“If you follow those rules and regulations, that’s going to allow you to stay safe and also be responsible around others,” Meyer said.
Lyft says they require riders in San Diego and Los Angeles to scan their driver’s license before riding the scooters to confirm the person’s age.
“We (Jump) do have that technology as we use it in cities that require it,” Barbara said adding this could be a possibility in Miami.
NBC 6 Investigators found city leaders in South Florida are not requiring this type of technology but in Miami, it hasn’t been ruled out for the future.
Russell says that’s one of the many options city leaders are considering as they prepare to debate whether to keep e-scooters in Miami.
“There’s so much demand here,” Commissioner Russell said. “That gives us the leverage for us to tell them (the companies) how to do it safely and they will follow the rules because they want to operate here.”