Kelowna's e-scooters are a 'fracture factory', orthopedic surgeon says | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kelowna's e-scooters are a 'fracture factory', orthopedic surgeon says

An ambulance arrives at the Kelowna General Hospital ER.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/KGH Foundation

A Kelowna surgeon says since the launch of the city’s e-scooter program, there’s been a significant increase of patients visiting Kelowna General Hospital with bone fractures.

Dr. Steven Krywulak, chief of orthopedic surgery at Kelowna General Hospital, said there’s a disproportionately high number of e-scooter-related accidents that have resulted in bone fractures since the e-scooters were approved in the city.

This time of year the operating room sees fractures from mountain bikes and skateboards, “but this is new,” he said. "We always struggle during this time of year in the summer as we get inundated with fractures as everyone's out recreating and misbehaving and we just struggle with the volume and what we didn't need was a whole new fracture factory coming our way."

Yesterday, May 27, Krywulak cancelled three knee and hip replacement surgeries because there were so many bone fractures he had to deal with, some of them e-scooter related, he said.

“The emergency room has seen them in high numbers and they’ve kind of been clogging up our OR fracture list, with all the other fractures and typically people are falling and breaking their collar bones, their wrists, their ankles, their elbows,” he said.

They don’t keep track of numbers, but since orthopedic doctors have seen such high numbers of fractures related to e-scooters, he worries about the summer months with people drinking and being out late at night on the e-scooters. The emergency department is also reporting a high number of injuries related to e-scooter accidents, he said.

“We’re going to see way more and we’re going to struggle to keep up,” he said.

Krywulak decided to speak out because he wants the public to know e-scooters can be dangerous and wants lawmakers to address the problem. The injuries cost taxpayers money to fix and if the OR is overwhelmed, then people could be waiting for days for surgeries. 

"I think they at least need to cut them way back if not get rid of them, that’s really the only solution or you just accept the fact that we’re going to be paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in healthcare bills and (dealing with) pain and suffering for patients,” he said.

“The public is kind of subsidizing the scooter companies through our taxes to pay for all the carnage.”

Last weekend, a person crashed an e-scooter, impaled their stomach with the handlebar and ruptured their spleen. They almost died, he said.

The people who are crashing are not going to ask for a safety video or training, Krywulak said.

Kelowna’s program is one of six in the province where the e-scooters are allowed on roadways. Vernon will also have e-scooters but is still going through proposals for e-scooter companies.

Since the program started there have been more than 45,000 trips covering more than 100,000 kilometres. 

Mathew Worona, the City of Kelowna’s new mobility specialist, said the city continues to implement new protocols to ensure safety.

Since last weekend, the e-scooters in the downtown core are no longer usable after 10 p.m., which is the last call for bars and restaurants with current COVID-19 restrictions, he said.

E-scooter riders are expected to follow the same rules as bikes, to use bike lanes, not ride intoxicated and to not use the sidewalk.

“We anticipate as people try it, and then give their second and third ride, riding behaviours will improve over the course of this rolling this out,” he said.

In other communities, e-scooter injury rates are very similar to bikes, he said.

The city and e-scooter companies will also have riding notifications to check on if the rider is not riding under the influence of alcohol which will be used at specific hours of the day.

E-Scooter speeds are also restricted in areas like Gyro and Rotary Beaches which have seen greater ridership. In-person riding training sessions will also be held after June 15 following the ease of COVID-19 restrictions. Brands will also allow riders to test their scooters at a slower speed to start for their first ride, he said.

The city has received around 60 complaints about the scooters but some of those are things like motorists being concerned about whether they’re safe or legal to ride on painted bike paths. The program has also expanded its service area in recent weeks, from Gordon Drive to Ziprick Road and they expect to see more complaints in areas where e-scooters haven't been before, Worona said.

READ MORE: E-scooters hugely popular in Kelowna, but don't drink and scoot

Krywulak is skeptical of the safety protocols and said the people who are crashing the e-scooters are not ones who are following any safety rules.

In Calgary, city council decided to implement stricter rules on the scooters and decreased the numbers of scooters available in the city after seeing parking complaints.

Luke Mydlarz, founder of ZIP, said via email the company takes safety very seriously and hasn't received any accident reports regarding the scooters.

"We are following all our safety procedures, a few examples include scooter inspections on a daily basis, we offer free helmets on request, and will be adding staff to help educate the public on the streets of Kelowna," he said.

The other Kelowna e-scooter companies could not be immediately reached for comment.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Carli Berry or call 250-864-7494 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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