Wrong-way scooter rider hit by driver downtown is critically injured

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin police say a scooter rider is in critical condition after being hit by a car in downtown Austin in the early hours of Friday morning. 

Just before 1 a.m., police say the man was riding a Lime scooter the wrong way on the southbound frontage road of Interstate 35 near Sixth Street when he was hit by a rideshare driver.

Lyft said in a statement “While this unfortunate incident did not involve the Lyft platform we feel for all impacted parties. The safety of the Lyft community remains our top priority and we stand ready to assist law enforcement with their investigation.”

Austin-Travis County EMS transported the unconscious man in his 20s to Dell Seton Medical Center at the University of Texas with critical life-threatening injuries. 

The driver stayed at the scene and cooperated with police. APD says the driver also had a passenger, who was a customer, in the car.

Officers say it’s unclear whether the scooter rider had been drinking. Police say first responders were only concerned with getting him to the hospital and beginning treatment quickly.

APD could subpeona his blood from the hospital later on if detectives decide they want to check his blood alcohol level at the time of the crash.

APD says that because the scooter rider was the only person hurt and detectives believe he was in the wrong, this isn’t a criminal investigation where detectives would scour surveillance footage or look to press charges.

“If the investigation were such where maybe where his actions had caused the death or injury of someone else, then it may be a much more extensive investigation,” said APD Highway Enforcement Command Lieutenant Blake Johnson.

He explained, “You know, the driver was coming southbound as they should, in the lanes of traffic they should.”

When KXAN spoke with the owner of the car, he said he was actually renting the car out through an app called HyreCar. 

Its website says people can list their cars or rent cars through its platform. Renters can use the cars they borrow to drive for Uber of Lyft. 

The company’s spokesman said they couldn’t provide a comment Friday “as it is an active investigation.” But again, Austin Police had said the driver was “likely not expecting a person on an e-scooter to be in that location at that time.” 

APD said the scooter rider was still in the ICU as of Friday morning. Officers have reached out to his family and told them what happened.

Lime said it is working to identify the scooter rider and reach out to him or his family to offer support. 

“Our thoughts are with the rider involved in this tragic incident in Austin and we wish him a quick recovery,” Lime wrote in a statement. “We have reached out to local authorities and offered to assist in any way we can.”

Other scooter riders react

Scooters launched in Austin in 2018. Throughout the year, more companies joined the market and increased the number of electric scooters available.

“If you take an Uber, it’s $5-10. But if you take a scooter it’s a buck 50, 2 bucks,” said Justin Mahar.

Mahar said he rides a scooter every day. But he and many others also admit, there can be some dangers associated with riding scooters on the road.

“I don’t like riding on scooters next to the busy streets,” said Kimmy Taft. “It makes me really uncomfortable and nervous. Feel like cars are going to hit me.”

“It actually just happened on my way here. Somebody was coming out of Trader Joe’s and I was on the road. And they didn’t see me or the biker next to me. Almost pulled out and hit both of us,” said Mahar.

After hearing about Friday’s crash, many said they’ll be extra aware of their surroundings, but they also wondered if there could be more restrictions, especially at night.

“I think putting the scooters around very busy street that’s known for drinking and drunks is not a good solution,” said Becca Ellsworth. “It’s nice to get around town during the day, but I get that rule of not at night. It makes sense.”

Lieutenant Johnson is reminding people leaving downtown Austin on busy nights that it’s always safer to take a cab or rideshare than a scooter or bike.

“You’re so much more vulnerable outside of a car.”

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