A man riding an electric scooter was killed Friday morning in a collision with an SUV at Dupont Circle in what officials believe is the District’s first fatality involving a rider of a shared scooter service.
Police said Sanchez-Martin died at a hospital shortly after the 10 a.m. incident. The driver of the SUV remained at the scene, and police were investigating the cause. No charges have been filed.
Lime is among three businesses that offer the two-wheeled vehicles for rent in D.C. in a program similar to a bike-share.
Terry Owens, a spokesman for the D.C. Department of Transportation, said this was the city’s first fatality involving a shared scooter since the services started this spring.
A spokesperson for Lime said in a statement the company is “deeply saddened to hear the report of this incident in Washington, D.C. Our thoughts and sympathies are with the family and loved ones. We have offered our full support to local authorities in connection with the investigation.”
Scooters have become a popular option for getting around in the District and many other cities. Commuters have turned to them out of frustration with the region’s public transit system, picking up on the growing trend of using the app-based services for short-distance trips. But with that popularity has also come safety concerns.
Authorities in Dallas said this week a 24-year-old man died after falling off a Lime electric scooter on Sept. 1 and suffering head injuries. At the time, three main shared scooter companies said they were not aware of any previous deaths involving their devices.
Police kept a portion of the traffic circle, one of the District’s busiest and most complex closed into Friday afternoon. Police said they have not yet determined who was at fault.
Janelle Rhorer was commuting to her Dupont Circle office and was at a stop light two vehicles behind where the crash occurred. She was on Massachusetts Avenue preparing to enter the inner part of the circle, and her line of vehicles had a red light.
Rhorer, 45, said the scooter was headed out of the park at the circle and was on a crosswalk when it was struck. She could not see if the scooter operator had a green or red light, or a pedestrian walking light. “It was so awful,” Rhoher said, adding the SUV stopped about 20 yards from impact, and she could see the victim trapped underneath.
Rhoher said she frequently encounters the rented scooters and other types of scooters in the District. “They just emerged as popular,” she said, “and I think that how to handle them with all the traffic probably needs looking at.”
Scooter operations are being allowed in the city as part of the District’s exploration of new mobility services. In September, the city opened its doors to five dockless bike systems. Three shared scooter companies operate in D.C. — Lime, Bird and Skip. The scooter services can rent up to 400 scooters each.
From the day the systems launched in September, through June of this year, users took more than 625,000 rides on the bikes and scooters, according to the D.C. Department of Transportation, which last month extended the pilot program through the end of the year.
The electric scooters are allowed in bike lanes but prohibited on sidewalks downtown, per city law. Users are not required to wear a helmet in the District, but scooter companies encourage users to take precautions and avoid using headphones or carrying anything in their hands during a ride. The Lime scooters go nearly 15 mph and have a 37-mile maximum range.
The scooter companies have said safety is a top priority. Bird, Lime and Skip have basic safety information on their apps and labels on their scooters, as well as training instructions. Bird requires users to upload a driver’s license and confirm they are at least 18 years old. Some of the companies say they give away free helmets.
The scooter systems have not been without controversy, having raised concerns about people riding on sidewalks and without helmets.
In interviews with The Washington Post this summer, emergency-room physicians in seven cities, including Austin, Atlanta and Nashville, reported a spike in severe accidents after the scooters launched on their streets. Reports of incidents, including of broken noses, wrists and shoulders and facial lacerations and fractures, have been reported, according to a news report this month.
In the District, Friday’s scooter fatality came as traffic deaths are on an upward trend.
As of Friday, the city had recorded 26 fatalities, two more than the same time last year, according to police. Three were bicyclists and ten were pedestrians. Five were motorcyclists, seven were in cars and was riding an ATV. The numbers include the scooter fatality; it is classified as a pedestrian crash.
Dana Hedgpeth and Peter Holley contributed to this report.